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20 January 2012, 17:23
Suffolk Police Authority has today agreed that setting a council tax increase is its preferred option.
The Authority debated next year's budget at their meeting and considered two council tax options for 2012/13.
The options are:
Option 1: freezing council tax at 2011/12 levels and accepting a one-off government grant of £1.25 million for one year; or
Option 2: not accepting the government grant but increasing the policing element of the council tax by 3.75%, to generate £1.55 million.
After the debate, the Authority agreed by a majority to take both options forward for a final decision at its next meeting on February 20th, but with a preference for Option 2.
Several members made it clear that they were mindful and concerned at the financial pressures facing many of Suffolk's council tax payers and wanted to do everything possible to keep costs down.
During the meeting, members heard how the financial challenge facing the Constabulary had grown, with the total savings required over the four years from 2011/12 to 2014/15 increasing £13.6 million to more than £16 million.
Chief Constable Simon Ash set out how any decision made on council tax this year would have major implications for the future of policing in Suffolk, including the number of officers available to police the county.
The meeting heard that selecting Option 1 would result in at least £1.6 million less in funding in the years following, because the government grant would be a one-off payment and council tax income will be reduced as a result of the freeze.
This would result in the Constabulary's strength falling below 1200 in the years ahead - a number which would place significant strains on its operational capability.
Police Authority Chairman Joanna Spicer said: "We have had very productive and thorough debate on the two council tax options.
It became clear that there is a real concern about the future resourcing of policing in Suffolk, not just during 2012/13 but in the years that follow."
We know that our decision on council tax will have major implications for policing locally and it was important that we had a thorough debate on the issue.
We will continue to consult with local councils, organisations and communities to inform our decision-making on both the budget and council tax at our next meeting."
Members will make final decisions about the budget and council tax at the Police Authority meeting on Monday, February 20.