The Police and Crime Panel is required to consider and formally respond to the Police and Crime Commissioner’s Proposed Precept for 2021/22. The purpose of this item is to allow the Commissioner to outline his proposals in more detail and to answer any questions that Panel Members might have.
Following consideration of the Commissioner’s proposed precept, the Panel must either:
a) agree the precept without qualification or comment;
b) support the precept and make comments or recommendations
concerning the application of the revenues generated; or
c) veto the proposed precept.
Report to follow – due to the late Government announcement
detailing the grant and precept cap level.
In accordance with the Police and Crime Panels (Precepts and Chief Constable Appointments) Regulations 2012:
(a) The Commissioner must notify the Panel of his proposed precept
by 1 February 2021;
(b) The Panel must review and make a report to the Commissioner on
the proposed precept (whether it vetoes the precept or not) by 8
(c) If the Panel vetoes the precept, the Commissioner must have
regard to and respond to the Panel’s report, and publish his response,
including the revised precept, by 15 February 2021;
(d) The Panel, on receipt of a response from the Commissioner
notifying it of his revised precept, must review the revised precept and
make a second report to the Commissioner by 22 February 2021
(there is no second right of veto);
(e) The Commissioner must have regard to and respond to the
Panel’s second report and publish his response by 1 March 2021.
David Munro - Surrey Police and Crime Commissioner
Kelvin Menon - Chief Finance Officer and Treasurer, Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC)
Key points raised in the discussion:
1. The Surrey Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) introduced the report and noted that:
· It contained his provisional recommendation for a proposed 5.5% precept increase which equated to £15 for a Band D property and he confirmed his recommendation to the Panel.
· The public consultation through the Council Tax Survey 2021/22 closed at 9 am that morning. There were 4,464 responses to the Survey which answered the yes or no question on the proposed precept increase and of those, there were 2,602 comments in the ‘free text’ box.
· He took the Survey seriously, in which 49% supported the proposed precept increase and 51% did not support it. This was considered to be a balanced response. In particular, he highlighted comments from respondents relating to:
- financial hardship particularly as a result of Covid-19.
- not feeling that they saw any additional police from the last year’s precept increase - he noted that although there were more police on the streets, recruitment and training took a long time but was on target for 31 March.
- wording the Survey better in relation to the proposed 67 staff as although it was the technical term as they were not warranted police officers, the term was perceived as back office roles - he clarified that the staff that he was proposing to fund were operational staff on the frontline such as Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs), analysts, crime investigators.
Councillor Bernie Spoor joined the meeting at 10.42 am
· Once the Survey results started to trickle in two weeks ago and given his concerns about going for the maximum increase he called for another meeting with the Chief Constable of Surrey Police and finance officers which he had not done in the past, in order to look at what the impact on policing of going for a £12 increase - 4.4% - or a £10 increase - 3.8% - would be. Following lengthy discussions, he was satisfied that the impact of going below £15 would be serious. At £15 the proposed increase would fund a total of 77 operational staff and police officers, if the precept increase was reduced the numbers of staff and officers which could be funded would decrease rapidly and impact some key areas such as rural policing.
· He viewed Surrey Police as an efficient force, which had been confirmed by a recent external audit report. Although there were some adverse comments under the efficiency umbrella within Surrey Police’s PEEL Assessment 2018/19, efficiency was measured in terms of demand management and future planning which could have been improved; rather than efficiency as resource management.
· Since 2010 the force had saved over £75 million with another £6 million in savings included in the current budget proposal. As PCC he expected yearly savings and those had been achieved, providing reassurance to the Panel and residents that money had been and would be well spent.
· Although with this increase Surrey Police was back to where it was in 2010 in real terms of funding, that masked two factors:
- The demand had increased in the last decade, the volume of total notifiable offences had gone from 50,000 in 2010 to 70,000; it was positive that victims reported crimes such as sexual offences and domestic abuse.
- The complexity of what the force had to deal with had increased such as cybercrime.
· The force’s funding had changed hugely. Surrey Police was an outlier receiving the lowest proportion of government funding of any police force (38% of the force’s funding) through the central grant and if the proposed precept increase came into effect, 59% of the force’s funding would be from council tax.
- The PCC noted that it was fundamentally wrong. Although he continued to lobby the Government on fairer funding having written to the Home Secretary a year ago and spoken with the Minister of State for Crime and Policing a few days ago on a collective call; he noted that he hoped the Comprehensive Spending Review would address fairer funding going forward.
· He firmly recommended the proposed precept increase as that along with the Government uplift would ensure that the force’s three broad priorities in relation to the Police and Crime Plan would be met:
- More police officers and frontline staff.
- Better crime prevention - as much of the increase was for community reassurance and detective intelligence.
- More crimes solved.
2. The Vice-Chairman who had chaired the Finance Sub-Group earlier in the week thanked the OPCC and Surrey Police for the excellent presentation and summarised the key points made:
· That Surrey Police received the lowest government funding per head of population in the country in 2020/21 and so the funding burden fell on council taxpayers.
· That Surrey Police was back to the level of funding in 2010, with no real term increase in line with inflation, despite an increased demand and over that same ten-year period 2010/11 - 2020/21, £75 million of savings had been delivered.
· That the combination of the Government uplift providing 73 officers and the proposed precept funding providing funding for 10 police officers and 67 operational staff would redress that.
· That the £15 proposed precept increase consisted of £7 to break even plus an additional £8 to fund services such as rural crime and to reduce fatal road traffic incidents.
· That if the precept was not increased to the £15 maximum permitted by the Government, there would need to be a significant review of the allocation of the amount of the total 77 police officers and operational staff as some teams were all or nothing regarding operational capacity.
· That a £1 reduction in the precept was equivalent to a £500,000 reduction and if the maximum increase was not agreed, the funding gap would keep widening and savings needed would keep increasing.
· That the force had engaged with CIPFA to identify savings, the extent which savings could be brought forward was limited as immediate savings had been made and CIPFA was looking at strategic long-term savings.
· Reserves could only be used once and so was not sustainable to fund the increase in police officers and staff on an ongoing basis.
3. A Panel member noted that personally in her borough she had not seen any increase in visible police presence despite precept increases over previous years. She asked whether the PCC thought the response rate from 4,464 residents was good bearing in mind Surrey’s 1.19 million population as of 2018.
- In response, the PCC provided comparative figures on Survey response rates noting that in 2019/20 he had received approximately 5,800 responses and 3,100 responses in 2020/21. More responses were always welcome, noting the wide circulation of the Survey through social media and he was open to the Panel’s suggestions to increase engagement.
- The PCC added that he took the Survey results seriously as the mixture of responses to the 2021/22 Survey both positive and negative provided a reasonably accurate reflection of the views of Surrey’s population.
4. A Panel member highlighted that as Surrey’s district and borough councils were keeping their council tax increases predominantly low to within 2 to 3%; she asked how she would explain to her residents that Surrey’s PCC would like to increase the police element of a Band D Council Tax bill by 5.5%. Residents were living in hard times financially due to the pandemic and so it should be a time where council tax rises were kept as low as possible.
- In response, the PCC explained that the Survey responses were evenly split and that he recognised the financial hardship faced by many residents. He explained that the increased police element of the total council tax for a Band D property was a small amount, the £15 a year increase equated to thirty pence a week and for that small amount residents would get the beneficial return of a safer Surrey.
5. A Panel member thanked the PCC for his clear report and congratulated the PCC and Chief Constable as well as all police officers and staff for their work over the last year during the pandemic. He also thanked his Borough Commander who led on excellent partnership work.
6. The Panel member noted that if the Panel was going to support the recommendation to increase the PCC’s proposed precept by 5.5%, it needed to have that increase in funding translated into an increase in performance through measurable targets such as the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) as opposed to the vague statements set out in the Chief Constable’s investment requirement. He stressed that the PCC’s duty was to hold the Chief Constable to account especially as for the last few years the force’s crime solving performance had flatlined.
- In response, the PCC assured the Panel that the extra investment from the proposed increased precept would feed into increased performance, noting the constant cuts made four years ago and the major reorganisation of the Policing in Your Neighbourhood (PiYN) model five years ago. For the first three years of his tenure he instituted rigorous performance and finance regimes, noting that although he would like to see increases in the KPIs, they had held up well especially the measure for residents’ confidence in Surrey Police in which statistically representative surveys were run in conjunction with Surrey County Council. The force continually wanted to improve its services to the public and the proposed precept increase would provide more resources to do that.
7. The Panel member replied to the PCC’s earlier comment that the length of time to recruit and get police staff and officers on the beat was very slow, a year was a long time and needed to be speeded up. In response, the PCC noted that recruitment and training took time. The major recruitment drive - both replacing police staff and officers and filling new posts - had been accelerated two years ago from the previous precept increases and Government uplift, with the training wing at Mount Browne full of high-quality police staff and officers.
8. A Panel member thanked the PCC for his honesty concerning the Survey results and comments. He explained that his main concern was that the proposed precept increase would be used to fund only 10 police officers compared to 67 staff noting the perceived back office roles for the staff as the public wanted police on the beat. He asked why it was skewed that way.
- In response, the PCC agreed that he wanted more police on the beat which would come from the Government uplift which would fund 73 police officers and complemented the proposed precept increase of 10 police officers and 67 operational staff. He clarified that the police staff from the proposed precept increase would be on the frontline, or provide frontline support, as opposed to back office functions.
- The PCC highlighted that the side effect of having many more police officers than staff was ‘reverse civilianisation’ which had been seen nationally; in which warranted officers were taken off the beat to fulfil the work of staff which was both inefficient and expensive. A modern police force needed both police officers on the beat as well as operational staff under the crime prevention and crime solving umbrellas.
9. A Panel member noted that the PCC had referred to the results of the Survey where 51% said that they were not in favour and provided some of the comments for those who said it would be difficult to fund the additional £15 a year increase for a Band D property. That increase equated to thirty pence weekly on top of the rise in local borough and district council tax and could be detrimental for those on restricted incomes, using foodbanks and claiming benefits. She asked why the PCC felt that the police should not have to work to same financial disciplines as Surrey’s borough and district councils who were keeping their council tax increases below 3%.
- In response, the PCC stressed that the decision on the proposed precept level was more difficult than in previous years due to the pandemic. He recognised that the small rise of thirty pence a week was added to the main council tax and so that was why he had a further round of discussions with the Chief Constable and finance officers to review what the difference would be of reducing the increase to £12 or £10.
- He explained that the small decrease would severely restrict the operational capacity of the force as for example staffing rural crime teams or the roads policing unit would most likely not be possible. He made a judgement that in order to fulfil the priorities within the Police and Crime Plan and wishes of Surrey residents the small increase numerically would have a large effect towards ensuring a safer Surrey by increasing crime solving and supporting victims of crime.
10. A Panel member noted serious concerns regarding the 5.5% proposed precept increase, as it was hugely above inflation at a time of the pandemic where people were losing their livelihoods and the increase was noticeably higher than last year’s rise. He noted that the potential rise in energy bills by £100 annually had only just been announced and so the PCC needed to see the context of those struggling and if there was an option to reduce that burden than it would be useful. He noted that the Survey was evenly split. As most borough and district councils were using reserves to reduce the burden on the council taxpayer by keeping the council tax rises under 3%, he asked whether Surrey Police could do the same noting the £20 million in reserves and £8 million non-earmarked reserves at the start of the year; and what the level of the force’s reserves was compared to local councils and similar police authorities.
- In response, the PCC explained that Surrey Police was out of kilter with other forces as it had the second lowest reserves in the country and was significantly lower than its neighbour Sussex Police. The force followed the Government’s deliberate policy of running down reserves and had the minimum of 3% unallocated reserves saved for emergency use.
- The Chief Finance Officer and Treasurer (OPCC) added that the £8 million non-earmarked reserves were kept to cover unexpected events and had the Government not part funded the force £6 million total Covid-19 costs a large amount of the force’s reserves would have been used up.
11. The Panel member further asked how the Panel and residents could ensure that the funding from the proposed precept was spent effectively, as Surrey Police’s PEEL Assessment 2018/19 noted that the force still required improvement for efficiency.
- In response, the PCC reiterated that although there were some adverse comments under the efficiency umbrella within Surrey Police’s PEEL Assessment 2018/19, “efficiency” examined demand management and future planning which could have been improved; rather than “efficiency” as resource management and the force had taken those comments on board noting the latest positive report on efficiency from the external auditors.
- The PCC noted the need to do better and the relentless focus on efficiency and his rigorous finance and performance regimes instituted for the first three years in his tenure had been effective noting the stringent savings targets.
12. The Panel member further noted that Surrey Police had made a lot of savings ten years ago but it had not been able to keep that momentum going and asked why as many councils had continued to make efficiencies had Surrey Police struggled and asked whether the identified savings for future years could be brought forward in order to reduce the proposed precept rise.
- In response, the PCC noted that although those savings had diminished over the last few years as the easy savings had been made first and so was more difficult; he hoped that greater efficiencies would come as a result of the increasing use of technology and national programmes going live over the next year.
- The PCC explained that savings could be brought forward and a number of them had been, the force had a multi-year savings programme as a complex organisation and so could not bring forward all savings and it could not lose sight of its day to day operational capacity to provide policing to make communities safer.
12. A Panel member explained that he found difficulty in supporting the force noting the positives of funding to tackle rural crime and the commissioning of victim services whilst at the same time noting that many local residents were struggling financially, highlighting the distinct increase in requests for food from his local free community store and unlike in March last year those increases were particularly from the middle class due to redundancies and businesses collapsing. Regarding the Surrey Capital & Investment Programme 2021/22 he queried the high amount of spending for the Estate Strategy of £12.6 million compared to £300,000 for Operational Equipment.
- In response, the PCC recognised that residents were hard hit by the pandemic but noted that the force needed more resources to cope with the increase in demand through the volume of crime and increase in complexity of crimes. The thirty pence a week increase was the best balance between making Surrey safer and having to fund that.
- The PCC commented that the large spending on the Estate Strategy was primarily for the new Leatherhead headquarters and the short-term borrowing requirement needed next year - efficiency savings over the next few years would meet that cost.
13. The Vice-Chairman highlighted that the additional thirty pence per week was a small sum to pay for that extra funding to tackle crime solving and key areas such as rural crime and fatal road traffic accidents. She asked whether Surrey Police had received full recovery of expenditure on Covid-19 costs or whether a shortfall remained.
- In response, the Chief Finance Officer and Treasurer (OPCC)reiterated that the force incurred £6.5 million in Covid-19 costs and had received £3.5 million back from the Government which covered costs relating to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) recovered and some of lost income; however the costs of overtime for both police staff and officers had fallen on the overall force budget.
Councillor Bernie Spoor left the meeting after losing connection at 11.34 am
The meeting was adjourned at 11.34 am as Panel members went into a private deliberation session
The meeting was resumed at 12.21 pm
The Police and Crime Panel reviewed the precept proposal.
In accordance with paragraph 3.7 of the Surrey Police and Crime Panel’s Constitution, a recorded vote was requested by three Panel members, proposed by Councillor Lewanski and seconded by Councillor White and Councillor Hawkins.
The following Members voted for the precept proposal:
Mr Stilwell, Councillor Watson, Councillor Reeve.
The following Members voted against the precept proposal:
Councillor Lewanski, Councillor Elmer, Councillor White, Councillor Robini, Councillor Hawkins, Councillor Forster, Councillor Milton.
There were no abstentions.
In accordance with the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 a veto must be agreed by two-thirds of Panel members, which equates to ten Panel members (the full membership rather than those present at the meeting) and as that requirement had not been met, the Panel:
(i) Accepted that the PCC’s proposal to increase the Band D Surrey Police and Crime Commissioner Precept by £15 for 2021/22 from £270.57 to £285.57 would come into effect; and
(ii) Would formally report to the Commissioner (by 8 February 2021), noting its concerns and reasons for Panel members not supporting the proposed precept (see Annexes B and C).
Actions/further information to be provided:
R1/21 - On behalf of the Panel, the Chairman will write to the Commissioner to confirm that his 2021/22 precept proposal would come into effect, noting the Panel’s concerns and reasons for Panel members not supporting the proposed precept, including its requests going forward.