ESSEX Police and Crime Commissioner Nick Alston has backed down over plans to raise the force’s council tax precept over fears a referendum could cost taxpayers millions of pounds.
He said: "On February 5, 2014, the government announced that any increase in council tax of 2 per cent or more would require a referendum. This includes the portion of council tax used to fund policing, known as the policing precept. I am disappointed in the decision to impose a cap, which I had advised against.
"However, I always recognised that the government might decide to impose a cap. As a result, I discussed this matter with the Police and Crime Panel at the meeting of January 29, when they agreed by twelve votes to three to approve an increase in the policing precept in Essex of 3.5 per cent.
"I firmly believe the majority of people living in counties which, for historic reasons, contribute the least through council tax for their policing would be prepared to pay a little more to protect front line policing. When compared with the other 35 shire forces in England and Wales, for 2013/14 the amount of council tax paid to fund policing services in our county was the fourth lowest in the country.
"The central government funding reductions mean that Essex Police will face financial challenges this coming year which will become even more serious in the following two years.
"The Chief Constable and I are determined to deliver the best possible policing over this period, protecting the front line and local policing wherever possible. We are confident of building a safer Essex. But we are also determined to invest in the long term development of Essex Police through encouraging the professional development of all officers and staff, adopting innovation and new technology, and building a strategic approach to the police property estate.
"My initial view is that it would not be a good use of public money to trigger a referendum in Essex. The commonly accepted estimate is that a referendum asking the people of our county whether they are prepared to vote for an increase of more than 2 per cent, or about 6 pence a week, to fund policing services would cost around £2 million.
"Given this, I propose to present a revised policing precept proposal to the Police and Crime Panel. Panel meetings are usually held in County Hall, Chelmsford, and members of the public are welcome to attend and ask questions."