Matthew Grove: 'I do not want to ask people to pay more for policing'
HUMBERSIDE police and crime commissioner Matthew Grove has said he does not want to increase council tax bills.
Mr Grove has asked residents if they would be willing to pay more towards the police as part of a consultation on his police and crime plan.
However, the commissioner said he would prefer to keep the police precept frozen.
"My opinion is I want to freeze the precept," he said.
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"The first port of call for additional funds should not be the pockets of hard-pressed local residents.
"I will not ask for more money from the public until I am absolutely certain I have exhausted every possible efficiency saving."
If the council tax is frozen, Mr Grove will be given a one-off grant of £400,000 from central government – equivalent to increasing the precept by one per cent.
As part of the consultation, Mr Grove is asking residents if they would be happy to pay an extra two per cent.
It would add about 7p a week to the bill of a band D council taxpayer.
Mr Grove said: "Increasing the precept by two per cent would give us an extra £400,000, but would mean putting a lot of extra charges on the public of this area.
"They are hardworking people who are struggling to pay their council tax.
"I have said consistently, and throughout my campaign, that I do not want to see council tax rise."
Despite his own views, Mr Grove said he is keen to see if the public feel the same.
"I have to present my budget and the precept to the police and crime panel and I don't want to tell them it is just something I want to do, I want to be able to tell them I have the support of the public," he said.
"If I have an overwhelming response from people saying 'don't put it up' – which I hope and expect they will do – then they will see I have that support."
Mr Grove has to present his final budget and five-year police and crime plan to the panel in March.
Andrew Allison, of the Taxpayers Alliance, said: "He says he personally wants to freeze the precept, but he would not rule out an increase. But whether he will propose an increase will depend on what the public tells him, and, crucially, the public don't know what he would spend an extra £800,000 on if he rejects a Government grant equivalent to 1 per cent of the budget.
"Despite his assertion that he wants to freeze the precept, what he said looks like a back-door way of grabbing more of our cash.
"He has given himself enough wriggle room based on residents' views.
"Of course, we will never read exactly what residents tell him.
"If officers convince him a rise is needed, how closely will he question what they say?"
Members of the public are being asked for their thoughts on the plan as part of a six-week consultation.
Mr Grove said: "This is very much a first draft and I don't expect the final plan to look the same at the end."
Visit www.humberside-pcc.gov.uk to view the plan.