The members of the Merseyside Police Authority met to decide on the 2012/2013 Budget after their meeting last Thursday had been adjourned.
There were two options to decide between. The first option was whether to accept a one-off Council Tax Freeze grant for 2012/2013 which equated to what they would have gained from a 3 percent rise in the police precept on the Council Tax bills for Merseyside residents. The second option was to reject the Council Tax Freeze grant and increase the Council Tax precept by 3 percent for Merseyside residents.
Neither option made any difference to the 2012/2013 budget, but did to budgets from 2013/2014 onwards.
The Chair welcomed people to the reconvened meeting. He said they wouldn’t go through the whole report again. He asked for a proposal.
It was proposed to reject the Council Tax Freeze grant for 2012/2013 and increase the Merseyside Council Tax police precept by 3 percent compared to its 2011/2012 level.
It was moved as an amendment to accept the Council Tax freeze grant for 2012/2013 and not increase the Merseyside Council Tax police precept for 2012/2013 compared to its 2011/2012 level.
A councillor spoke for the amendment and against the motion. Cllr Kate Wood spoke for the amendment and against the motion. The Chair commented that the Merseyside Police Authority sets the precept independently of the Merseyside local authorities who collected the Council Tax on their behalf.
Janet referred to a story on the BBC website. She had asked for a copy of the press release and felt the BBC had mixed it up as they had used a figure of £2 million instead of £1.865 million. She also didn’t understand the BBC article suggested there would be a loss of forty officers, which made out there would be a deficit when the revenue Budget for 2012/2013 was neutral between the two options.
She had an issue with the survey using survey monkey that the Police Authority had done. She said it was biased as option 1 was for putting up the Council Tax precept and that people could vote in it as many times as they liked, she herself had voted three times. She said although the proposed increase was small,would some residents would have to cut their heating bill to afford the increased Council Tax.
The Chair asked the Chief Executive to clarify.
The Chief Executive referred people to table 14 on page 45. He pointed out the issue was with the 2013/2014 Budget, not 2012/2013. He explained that the issue was never 2012/2013. The issue was what happened after 2012/2013 to the one year Council Tax Freeze grant.
He continued by pointing out in 2013/2014 if the Council Tax Freeze grant was accepted, then it led to a £2 million gap, as the grant would be dropped out of the Budget for 2013/2014. This meant the Council Tax base for 2013/2014 would be reduced [compared to increasing the precept for 2012/2013] and the effect of the Council Tax Freeze Grant was close to £2 million.
Referring to the survey, Paul Johnson explained that it had been sent out to libraries and they had made it so that more that each person could vote more than once. He said they had been criticised on Thursday for reorganising a meeting so quickly, which gave little opportunity to the public of Merseyside. They had achieved some helpful information, but if Authority members thought it was not up to scratch they were at “liberty to ignore” it.
The Chair said he was not going to give a summay out unless he was asked for it. In the short period of time he only intended to introduce it if there was another stalemate. It had been raised, but it did have limitations.
An Authority Member referred to a “lot of misunderstanding”. They then referred to Liverpool City Council deciding on the Council Tax levels and the effect on them of receiving or refusing the Council Tax Freeze Grant. The Member thought the effect over five years for the Police Budget could come to Ł9 million.
The Member referred to the “poorly paid on benefits” who had faced “Housing Benefit cuts” when “nobody gave a monkeys”. He then went onto refer to Working Tax Credit cuts and Winter Fuel Allowance reductions from Ł250 to Ł150.
He was arguing that the 3% rise would not lead to greater numbers of officers on the frontline as in previous years. However it would allow injured and ill officers to be tacken off their backroom jobs and made redundant, which would lead to a longterm saving.
This could lead to [approximately] forty new officers. If they were not going to recruit now then in a couple of years there would be a big gap and experienced officers who needed to pass their skills and advice on would have left Merseyside Police.