Council tax precept increase to help protect Gwent communities

The Police and Crime Commissioner for Gwent, Jeff Cuthbert, is to raise the amount households pay for policing through their council tax by 5.49 per cent to allow Gwent Police to continue keep communities safe.

From April, the average Gwent household will pay an additional £1.25 per month for its policing service (based on a typical band D property).

This extra investment in Gwent Police will help improve performance and responsiveness, and will allow 18 new Community Support Officer (CSO) posts to be created in the next two years.

The decision to increase funding for Gwent Police follows a robust financial case put forward by the Chief Constable Pam Kelly and a nine-week programme of public engagement with residents across Gwent.

Jeff Cuthbert said: “This was an incredibly difficult decision and I want to reassure residents that it was not taken lightly. The pandemic has hit many people hard financially over the last year. However, the fact remains that almost half of Gwent Police’s budget comes from local tax payers and I can’t shy away from the fact that, without an increase, cuts will have to be made.

“The Chief Constable put forward an honest and robust financial case for her budget which I have had to balance against affordability for the public. More than half of the 1,259 residents who responded to my survey felt comfortable with a rise of up to £2 a month and I am pleased that by working closely with Gwent Police during the budget setting process we have been able to considerably reduce the increase required. I am confident that a rise of about £1.25 a month on average remains affordable, while allowing Gwent Police to continue to deliver an efficient and effective service that keeps Gwent as one of the safest places in the UK.

“It will also enable Gwent Police to recruit 18 more Community Support Officers over the next two years and this is something I very much welcome. These are in addition to the significant investment we have made in about 170 new Police Officer posts since 2016, which have also been funded through previous Council Tax Precept increases. Although the budget has now been set for the next financial year, I want to reassure residents that we will strive to identify potential cost savings and prioritise investment in frontline services.

“I would like to thank everyone that took the time to share their views.”

Before setting the precept level, the Police and Crime Commissioner must consider the financial case made by the Chief Constable for the amount of money Gwent Police needs to operate for the next financial year.

In addition to the extra CSOs being recruited, the additional funding requested by Gwent Police will allow changes to response policing meaning improved performance and responsiveness, better support for custody officers, and greater support for the Area Support Unit and the work of the police dog section.

Chief Constable Pam Kelly said: “We very much understand the challenges that everyone is facing at present but we are committed to tackling crime across Gwent. Whether it’s solving local burglaries or disrupting serious organised crime across our region, we want our residents to be confident that we are working hard to protect them.

“We are increasing the number of officers we have across the force and they will be working in front line roles increasing our visibility but also tackling more hidden crimes which can also have devastating consequences including cyber-crime and the exploitation of vulnerable individuals.”

The decision was reviewed by the Gwent Police and Crime Panel at a meeting on Friday 29 January. The panel recommended that the Commissioner consider options to reduce the proposed precept increase from 5.49 per cent for 2021/22, on the condition that is does not affect front line officer and staff numbers.

Jeff Cuthbert said: “I’m grateful that the Police and Crime Panel for their on-going scrutiny and support, and fully understand their desire to keep rates as low as possible for local tax payers. However, having reviewed the financial case it is clear that anything less than a 5.49 per cent rise will jeopardise the Chief Constable’s ability to protect and reassure the public of Gwent, particularly those who are most vulnerable.”