Norfolk Police Authority agree to raise council tax by 3pc to help maintain Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) in Norwich and across county

Norfolk Police Authority has rejected the offer of a 'one-off' �1.7m grant from the government and agreed to raise its share of the precept in a bid to help maintain the numbers of police community support officers (PCSOs).

Members yesterday agreed a revenue budget of �145.87m for policing in Norfolk in 2012-13, with the authority approving a council tax precept increase of 3pc for the police's part of the council tax, despite the offer of the government grant if it froze council tax.

The move, which means a band D taxpayer will pay �196.92 – a rise of 11p per week, means PCSO numbers can be maintained at 260 to ensure vital work which is helping to drive down anti-social behaviour in Norfolk as part of the Safer Schools Partnership (SSP) can continue.

It is a decision which also means police officer strength can be retained at the planned March 2012 position of 1,530 for the next financial year, although it is likely that figure could reduce to 1,500 after 2013.

Phil Gormley, Norfolk's chief constable said he was 'delighted' with the difficult decision to agree a 'modest' rise in council tax which he said would allow the force to ensure the 'excellent' work being done in and around schools and anti-social behaviour could be 'preserved'.

He added: 'My aim is to protect the number of officers and PCSOs in our safer neighbourhood teams to keep Norfolk people safe. A one-off grant does not allow me to do that as people cost money over the longer-term, ie, they are a recurring cost.

'I made it clear to members that I would be able to better protect some of the initiatives that they most value, including our work in schools and with vulnerable people, if they decided to increase the precept.'

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He added: 'I'm very proud of what the constabulary has done and this will allow us to continue to deliver the level of service that people here in Norfolk have a right to expect from the constabulary.'

With the 3pc increase having now been approved, Norfolk police, which had been tasked with making �24.5m of savings by 2015, is looking at plugging a funding gap of �20.5m over the next four years.

Speaking after yesterday's meeting, Stephen Bett, police authority chairman, said the wide consultation carried out prior to the meeting returned overwhelming support from the county to increase the precept.

He said: 'The authority has worked tirelessly over recent years to improve policing in Norfolk and it has done this with considerable success – performance has turned around, we are the safest county in England and, compared to some other forces, we are in a position of relative strength.

'Today's decision will help us to preserve frontline policing in the face of massive public spending cuts – a position that we could not have envisaged but one that our foresight is now assisting us to hedge to the advantage of Norfolk people.'

Mr Bett said it would have been 'unfair' of the authority, which also rejected a third option to increase council tax by 3.77pc, to both the people of Norfolk and the police, not to have agreed the 3pc increase.

All but one member of the authority agreed to the 3pc increase. Paul Wells, a Conservative county councillor for Bowthorpe voted to accept the government's 'one-off' grant as he did not feel comfortable in agreeing an increase, no matter how modest, at a time when people's purses were being 'pulverised'.

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