Suffolk Police Authority considers council tax increase

Suffolk Police Authority has agreed at a meeting today that setting a council tax precept increase is its preferred option for its next budget.

The authority had considered two council tax options for 2012/13 - freezing council tax at 2011/12 levels and accepting a one-off government grant of �1.25m for one year or the second option of not accepting the government grant but increasing the policing element of the council tax by 3.75pc to generate �1.55m.

Authority members agreed by a majority to take both options forward for a final decision at its next meeting on February 20 – but with a preference for option two.

Today's meeting heard how the financial challenge facing the Suffolk police had grown – with the total savings required from 2011/12 to 2014/15 increasing from �13.6m to more than �16m.

Chief Constable Simon Ash set out how any decision made on council tax this year would have major implications for the future of policing in Suffolk – including the number of officers available to police the county.

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Selecting option one would result in at least �1.6m less in funding in the following years – because the government grant would be a one-off payment and council tax income will be reduced as a result of the freeze.

This would result in the force's strength falling below 1,200 in the years ahead – a number which would place significant strains on its operational capability across the county.

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Authority Chairman Joanna Spicer said: 'We have had very productive and thorough debate on the two council tax options.

'It became clear that there is a real concern about the future resourcing of policing in Suffolk, not just during 2012/13 but in the years that follow.'

'We know that our decision on council tax will have major implications for policing locally – and it was important that we had a thorough debate on the issue.

'We will continue to consult with local councils, organisations and communities to inform our decision-making on both the budget and council tax at our next meeting.'

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