It’s not a fair cop? Cllr. Coley on police funding


Did you know that Surrey is the only police area in the country where local residents pay more towards policing than central government? The share of the burden is 55% Council Tax precept, versus 45% government funding.

The average Council Tax precept contribution in England and Wales is 34% and is growing faster than any other funding area. Government capital funding and funding for national priorities like serious violence is decreasing. From March 2016 to March 2024 the Council Tax precept nationally has increased by a total percentage of 71%. While government funding from March 2016 to March 2024 has only increased by 29%.

We are approaching a point where other police areas will join Surrey and cross the line where the Council Tax precept provides the majority of funding. Within three years a third of police areas may cross that point, in five years it could be half. Not only are residents being taxed twice for policing, many will soon face being directly taxed for the majority of police funding contributions where they live, just like in Surrey.

A quiet and gradual funding shift by stealth. We may find ourselves experiencing American style policing, where your local police are exclusively bought as a service paid for with a property tax. You only have to look at what happened in some US towns and cities when wealthy people moved out and funding collapsed. Criminal gangs move in sensing weakness and create a cycle of deprivation and self-reinforcing criminality driven by ever decreasing budgets that deter investment and prosperity. I am determined we don’t end up like that and the government provides fairer funding.

At a meeting of the Surrey Police & Crime Panel we were asked to vote on the Police & Crime Commissioner’s maximum increase to the precept. I asked her to consider other funding sources because of the impact of yet another maximum increase on residents suffering from the cost-of-living crisis after years of austerity. She had her staff answer for her: “What do you want us to do, pass a hat around?”

The Police & Crime Commissioner has £43m in treasury management, she underspent by £8.7m last year and is forecast to underspend again this year. Your Council tax is going into her reserves, while police officers are taken off the streets to cover desk jobs for staff vacancies. Little wonder that the recent inspection report assessed Surrey Police as ‘Inadequate’ at responding to the public.

I am petitioning parliament to change the police funding allocation formula so council taxpayers don’t contribute more to their police force than government.

Please sign the petition here:

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