New police commissioner for West Yorkshire bids to charge more

Mark Burns-Williamson.
Mark Burns-Williamson.
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The new police commissioner for West Yorkshire has hit out at the Government for imposing limits on how much he can increase council tax.

Mark Burns-Williamson believes that police and crime commissioners (PCCs) should not be bound by rules which mean a precept rise above two per cent would trigger a “costly” referendum.

In an open letter to the Home Secretary Theresa May, Mr Burns-Williamson said: “I firmly believe that the resources raised locally to pay for the police service should be a matter for local agreement, and we should not be dictated to in this by Whitehall.”

He told the YEP that if the Government “truly believed” in localism they would let PCCs set the precept after consulting with residents.

He also warned that it was “a nonsense” that PCC elections had taken place in November, giving him less than four months to put together a budget and policing plan. He said the Government’s decision that the next PCC election will be in May 2016 was an admission that this year’s elections should have been held in May as well.

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A Home Office spokeswoman said: “PCCs are independent of government and are free to set the precept as they see fit. We agree this is a decision best taken locally, which is why we want to give local people the right to veto any proposal for an excessive increase in their council tax. We make no apologies for giving the public the chance to have their say on such an important issue.”

Since taking office Mr Burns-Williamson has launched a survey online and also sent it to 17,000 homes, asking for residents’ views on policing and the budget. One question asks whether people would be willing to pay an increase in the police precept of up to five per cent – an annual rise of £6.53 on a band D property.

His open letter to the Home Secretary yesterday (Dec 17) was sent ahead of PCCs being told this week how much Government funding their force is set to receive next year.

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