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'We have not been asked to deliver cheap policing' - Derbyshire's crime commissioner on council tax rise

Derbyshire's police and crime commissioner has demanded the maximum council tax rise to fund the force.

“The public have not asked me to deliver cheap policing” says Derbyshire’s police and crime commissioner as she put forward a budget containing a maximum council tax increase.

Angelique Foster, Derbyshire’s police and crime commissioner, launched the 2024 budget at a council meeting this week, including a tax increase of 4.88 per cent.

This equates to £10.08 a year extra for Band B homeowners to a police precept of £217.47 and £13 a year for Band D homeowners to a police precept of £279.60.

During a police and crime panel meeting at Derbyshire County Council’s Matlock headquarters Ms Foster and Chief Constable Rachel Swann outlined a budget under significant pressure.

This includes the prospect of a current £666,000 shortfall growing to a £5.4 million budget black hole by 2028.

Ms Foster told the meeting: “The public have not asked me to deliver, and certainly not the chief constable, to deliver cheap policing. 

“It is value for money, it is good, strong community policing and it is about using the resources efficiently and effectively to make every penny count and put to use to keep our residents safe.”

She said the responsibilities that rest with her office had increased but staffing levels had not matched this, with a potential future need for more commissioner office recruitment.

Chief Constable Swann told the meeting: “We don’t expect the people of Derbyshire to fund our improvements alone and it is our responsibility to find that money.

READ MORE: https://www.questmedianetwork.co.uk/news/glossop-chronicle/struggling-derbyshire-council-welcomes-government-funding-boost-but-leader-says-it-is-not-enough/

“It is right that I fund these improvements myself and continue to find efficiencies.”

She said requesting the maximum council tax precept increase was her “only option available” in order to meet the demands of the force.

Chief Constable Swann said crime had changed its complexity with the presence of a “digital footprint” to track alongside all physical evidence for each incident, which takes up more resources.

In a discussion on cyber crime and online attacks, Ms Fostersaid she felt the Derbyshire force was “not set up to combat criminals at the moment” saying the technology and skills of criminals was currently higher than that of the force.

She said this was a national issue not specific to Derbyshire.

A police official overseeing cyber crime and artificial intelligence said the force was looking to bring in “police that can compete with cyber and digital attacks”.

Cllr John Wright, a Derby city councillor, asked about changing and improving the police response to retail theft, with small and large shop owners in the city citing issues.

He claimed shop owners had been told not to report incidents to the police unless there was violence or a threat of harm.

Ms Foster said this had not been advice given by the police but by some national retailers and that there was no minimum value of theft for reported incidents either, but said “there is more happening and more that needs to be done”.

Chief Constable Swann said retail theft was an “emerging risk” and wanted people to report all incidents, saying there had been success with repeat offenders in Derby.

Cllr Matt Allwood, an Amber Valley borough councillor, also raised the issue, saying national figures showed police attending just 29 per cent of retail crime incidents.

Chief Constable Swann said: “The force is to improve investigations and that includes responding to and attendance at incidents.”

Ms Foster claimed the 27 per cent increase in shoplifting “couldn’t be anticipated”, with organised criminal gangs involved in the surge, “driving people around to commit crimes”.

PCC papers detail that without a maximum precept increase, the force would have to use more than £1 million from its reserves to reach a balanced budget.

Even with a £13 increase, £666,000 will still be required to plug the gap over the next year on the back of £728,000 in cutbacks this year and a further £1 million for the next year.

However, the force is still facing a £1.9 million deficit for the following year (2025), which is set to rise year on year to £5.4 million by 2028.

The force does retain reserves of £6.5 million this year with this set to be maintained through to 2028.

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