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Last Updated: Thursday, 27 March 2008, 15:51 GMT

Police authority budgets face cap

Police handcuffs
Ministers want to protect council tax payers from excessive rises

Seven police authorities and one city council in England face having their budgets capped for forcing council tax rises beyond the government's limit.

The authorities are Bedfordshire, Cheshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Surrey and Warwickshire.

Local Government Minister John Healey said it was necessary to take action.

But the Association of Police Authorities (APA) said the police owed it to communities to set their tax at a level that ensured effective policing.

Inflation-busting rises

City authority Portsmouth City Council also faces having its budget capped.

Council tax gathered from local residents is shared between a number of bodies, including the council, police and fire services.

If any of these stakeholders demand an excessive share of the pot, then the council passes on a rise in council tax to residents.

We will act to protect council tax payers from excessive increases
John Healey, local government minister

But the government does not permit inflation-busting council tax increases, and can force a cap on the demands.

Mr Healey told the Commons: "While I am disappointed that it has been necessary to take action this year, I make no apologies for it.

"Keeping council tax under control is and will remain a top priority for government and we will act to protect council tax payers from excessive increases."

The BBC's local government correspondent John Andrew said: "All of them have rises well above 5%, which is deemed to be the limit."

Lincolnshire police authority made the highest demand. It has increased its stake of the council tax by 80%, adding an extra 2 a week to the average bill.

When Lincolnshire announced its intended rise - which amounts to an extra 60m in its budget - the chief constable praised the police authority for being brave and ending years of under funding.

Capping police authorities means those communities' voices have not been heard
Bob Jones, APA chairman

The authority said it would mean scores of extra police and community support officers.

The Association of Police Authorities (APA) said the capping meant residents' calls for more officers were being ignored.

APA chairman Bob Jones said: "Today's announcement does not do justice to communities who have said they are prepared to pay more for their policing in return for an improved police service.

Huge cost

"Capping police authorities means those communities' voices have not been heard."

He said police had an obligation to ask for enough money to adequately serve their communities, for example with costly neighbourhood policing.

The Local Government Association also said capping made no sense.

It says it will mean up to 40 councils will have to send out lower bills at huge cost.

'Ground down'

The authorities affected will have three weeks to lobby ministers before a final decision is taken.

But Tory spokesman Bob Neill said council tax was now probably "the most unpopular tax" in the country and that people had been "ground down" by repeated rises.

He said that despite the caps there would still be an extra 53 a year on the bills of band D householders.

The Department for Communities and Local Government said council tax in England is set to rise by an average of 4% in the coming year.

The current rate of inflation is 2.5%, according to the consumer prices index.

SEE ALSO
Residents to pay extra for police
27 Feb 08 |  Lincolnshire
Cash-strapped force may cut posts
26 Jan 08 |  Lincolnshire

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