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Gwent Police precept rise vetoed in favour of a bigger increase

A PROPOSAL to increase the Gwent Police council tax precept by five per cent has been vetoed by councillors – who have instead recommended a bigger rise.

The Gwent Police and Crime Panel have recommended that the precept is increased by 5.5 per cent from April rather than the previously-proposed five per cent, due to funding pressures facing the force.

A five per cent increase would have equated to an extra £14.40 per year or £1.20 per month on a band D property in Gwent.

The precept forms part of council tax bills and is used to raise money to fund policing.

The proposed five per cent increase was planned to contribute to Gwent Police recruiting an additional 10 Police Community Support Officers as well as maintaining current staffing levels.

However Jeff Cuthbert, Gwent Police and Crime Commissioner, said the proposal would have still resulted in a £2.5 million shortfall in the budget.

At a crime panel meeting on Friday, Mr Cuthbert said rises in the costs of living had been considered in putting forward the five per cent increase, with affordability being raised as a concern in a public consultation.

But he added the force was “down to the bare minimum” to maintain an adequate force, and that anything less than a five per cent rise ‘jeopardises’ the chief constable’s ability to protect the public of Gwent.

A medium-term financial plan includes an increase of 6.82 per cent – and Cllr Colin Mann welcomed the reduction to five per cent.

But he added that council tax is “one of the biggest” monthly bills which people face.

“It’s still a lot of money when you think of the pressures that people are facing,” he said.

Cllr Sean Morgan said poorer people tend to be “hit harder” by inflation, adding that an increase in poverty can lead to rises in crime.

Eleri Thomas, deputy police and crime commissioner for Gwent, said the budget was being set against “an unprecedented backdrop”, with uncertainties over the impact of Covid-19 on crime.

Ms Thomas said the budget was “not wishing to pass a penny more of a burden on to the residents of Gwent”.

Pam Kelly, chief constable of Gwent Police, said it was “an honest budget”, but also “a challenging budget for me to deliver on”.

Ms Kelly said anything less than a five per cent rise would mean the force would have to “look at how we deliver the service to the public”.

Gillian Howells, chairman of the panel, said the panel recognises “the ongoing pressures” facing the force to deliver services.

Ms Howells said the panel wish to veto the five per cent rise as it was “too low”, and that it instead recommended a 5.5 per cent rise to mitigate the £2.5 million shortfall.

Speaking after the decision, Ms Kelly said the decision would have “enormous benefits for the communities of Gwent and will be a huge morale boost for officers and staff”.

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Gwent Police precept rise vetoed in favour of a bigger increase

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