Simmonds: Tax increase ‘not be the solution’

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The county’s police commissioner has defended his decision to freeze council tax, despite fears the force could be £16m in the red by 2018.

Adam Simmonds was grilled by members of the new Police and Crime Panel at County Hall on Tuesday about his first budget.

Members asked whether it was the right decision to refuse to increase taxes when the force was faced with a predicted £16m deficit in five years’ time. The force is expected to have a £3m deficit in its budget in 2014/15, increasing to £9m the year after, £12m the year after that and reaching £16m by 2017/18.

Mr Simmonds said making savings in the force was a “massive problem” facing his new commission, but said he did not believe the issue could be solved by raising taxes.

The council tax precept was capped by the government at two per cent, which Mr Simmonds told the panel would raise around £800,000 a year. He said: “This is a massive problem that raising the council tax precept will not, on its own, solve.

“I don’t want to start off by simply raising council tax. I want to see what else we can do and then maybe come back to that.”

Mr Simmonds was also quizzed on his plans to create the first reservist force in England and Wales.

He said: “In my head the ambition isn’t any different to how a lot of services in this county already work. We will be recruiting people who want to take part and be part of their communities and they will be paid for it.

“The force control room might see a burglary is taking place in a village and they could have three or four reservists there and they will be able to go instead of a police car going out.”

He said their training could be “bespoke” to the communities they live in.

Mr Simmonds also told the panel how he intends to make community safety partnerships bid for money from the commission.

The budget was approved by the panel, which will consider the police and crime plan next month.