The Kent Police Authority (KPA) have voted to increase the police precept by 4.99%, the maximum likely to be permitted by the government with a 5% cap. This is in line with the KPA’s policy as set out by its Deputy Chairman, Cllr Mike Hill, to raise the precept to the average of whatever other police authorities happen to charge.
Mr Hill said at the meeting:
“We have an insoluble problem of having near the lowest council tax precept of any police authority. Therefore a strategy to bring it up to something like the average is right and we have to go for something higher”
KPA Member Cllr Mark Reckless, and Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for Rochester and Strood, opposes this policy and voted against the tax rise. He said:
“We have plenty of money to pay for Neighbourhood Task Teams, and what Kent Police say they need to become among the best performers in the country, without raising the council tax at all this year. All we would have to do is limit staff pay rises, including the 45% hike for the Police Authority Chair, to the 1% set by KCC, and get rid of the slush fund”
– MARK RECKLESS
- 1. On 10th December KPA Members voted by 9 votes to 4 to increase their own allowances by 45% for the Chair, 25% for Committee Chairs, 19% for the Deputy Chair and 12% for other members. Cllr Reckless has waived his increase.
- 2. The KPA have decided to pad all police budgets with an allowance for inflation that is twice as high as the Bank of England expects. This adds 1 ¼% to the tax rise.
- 3. The KPA had said it needed to hold £12.5m of taxpayers’ money as an ‘Insurance Reserve’ (and then allowed KCC to ‘invest’ about that amount in Icelandic Banks). Cllr Reckless raised concerns that the money was not needed for its supposed purpose – to pay legal claims – and was instead being used as a slush fund for money taken in council tax but not needed. External advice since is that only £3.8m is necessary for likely legal claims.
- 4. Kent Police and KPA finance officers have nonetheless decided to keep £6.5m in the ‘Insurance Reserve’, the extra £2.7m being the exact amount left over from raising the council tax by as much as government allows once the entire ‘Step Change’ rise in spending requested by Kent Police is paid for.
Cllr Reckless has made three further criticisms of the ‘Insurance Reserve’:
- a. This supposed provision for uninsured legal claims is determined by Kent Police’s Head of Finance without consulting the Head of Legal Services;
- b. Kent Police claims record is better than assumed as recording historically has been better for claims they pay than claims they don’t have to pay – yet this is then cited as an argument for heaping up more money in reserve, not less;
- c. Motor claims have fallen sharply as police must now have obey road traffic rules, unless on emergency, but the reserve assumes accidents are as frequent as before the policy was changed, even though it is knows that they are not.