Police and Crime Commissioner Joy Allen has put forward her plans to protect policing levels across County Durham and Darlington in the forthcoming financial year as the force continues to miss out on crucial extra government funding.
The Commissioner is recommending increasing the policing portion of the money people pay towards council tax by 5.1 per cent which equates to an extra 25p per week (£13 a year) for a Band D property. Many householders will pay less than this (£8.67 per year) due to a higher proportion of Band A properties within the force area.
The increase, which is in line with government assumptions, will generate vital income to enable the Commissioner to maintain police officer numbers at 1,368 until at least April 2025 and PCSO numbers at 146.
It is also necessary for the recruitment of extra control room staff to improve public contact processes and the continuation of IT upgrades, that are essential for ensuring the public receive the urgent help needed when they call for help.
More than half of the 1,935 people who responded to the Commissioner’s recent budget survey supported increasing the precept either by £15 or more, acknowledging the difficult job she has in balancing the books in the face of historic underfunding.
In announcing her plans, ahead of a Police and Crime Panel meeting, Commissioner Allen drew attention to the ongoing adversity facing Durham and other low tax base forces who she described as being continually ‘left out in the cold’.
Despite the limitations of central grant funding and council tax revenue, Commissioner Allen still successfully brought in more than £5.1m of extra funding through Ministry of Justice and Home Office streams last year, helping the force to retain its high performing position.
The policing grant allocated to the force has increased by 6.19 per cent to £118.4m for 2024/25. If the panel approves the precept increase, the total revenue funding will increase from £157.4m to £167m – an increase of £9.6m or 6.1 per cent. This compares to an average national increase of 6.7 per cent – which means Durham receives a lower increase than the average, as has been the case since 2010 due to its low taxbase.
The money people paid towards policing in 2023/24 helped the Commissioner to instantly strengthen the frontline by taking on more transferee police officers from other forces. These are trained and experienced officers who can make an immediate impact in their communities but cost more to employ.
It also funded an increase in training across the force, an uplift in Special Constables, an extra five police officers, boosted resources in the force control room and supported the launch of Operation Snap – the new public portal introduced by the force allowing people to upload journey cam footage they have obtained to support the prosecution of illegal drivers.
In drafting the 2024-25 budget, the Commissioner has backed Chief Constable Rachel Bacon’s determined focus on neighbourhood policing, supporting her plans to recruit more officers and PCSOs.
Commissioner Allen added: “In an evolving and challenging world, I am proud of our achievements and Durham’s position as a national leader in fighting crime. Residents have made clear their priorities in my recent budget survey and this budget will deliver on those key areas and more as we continue to make our county and borough safer.”