LATEST: Norfolk police commissioner proposes tax rise after freeze veto
Norfolk’s police and crime commissioner (PCC), Stephen Bett, has signalled he will raise the police’s portion of council tax, just days after indicating he wanted to freeze it.
The change of heart has been revealed in papers published ahead of a crucial meeting on the issue next week.
But the move has sparked criticism of his handling of the budget from many of those who want to succeed him as commissioner after May’s election.
Last week, the county’s police and crime panel vetoed Mr Bett’s proposal to freeze the police portion of the council tax for the forthcoming financial year.
He said it was the right thing to do, following the government’s decision to protect policing budgets.
But the panel said the move would provide insufficient funding for the force, a view echoed by its chief constable, Simon Bailey, who also pleaded for a rise.
And almost two-thirds of those who responded to a public consultation last month also backed an increase.
Now, Mr Bett has bowed to that opinion and proposed to raise the tax by 1.98 per cent, adding just over £4 to the annual bill for an average band D property.
When it was put to him that it looked like a U-turn, he admitted: “Well it is.”
But he pointed out that the freeze proposal had been “comprehensively vetoed” by the panel and said he was also listening to nearly two-thirds of respondents to last month’s public consultation who also supported an increase.
However, his Conservative rival for the post, Lorne Green, said the affair left question marks over Mr Bett’s judgement and motives.
He said: “How can we have any confidence in his ability to manage a budget when in the course of a week his precept proposal has shifted completely from a tax freeze to an increase of the maximum amount?
“People living in Norfolk deserve a PCC that they can trust and rely on to spend their money wisely, not flip flop between two extremes.”
Liberal Democrat candidate Jacky Howe said any additional funding was welcome, but suggested Mr Bett, a former Conservative who stood as an independent in the inaugural PCC election in 2012, was not acting in the interests of all Norfolk’s residents when he proposed a freeze.
She said: “The people who need help and need more money to go in can’t afford to put it in.
“The people who aren’t properly served by the police at the moment will be happy to see more money going into the police force.
“He’s appealing to his natural party.”
But Mr Bett said the panel which vetoed the freeze proposal included Conservative councillor Christopher Kemp, who he says is Mr Green’s election agent.
He added: “That’s why I’m totally opposed to having political parties put up candidates. I think all candidates should be independent and fight on their own merits.”