Dear Sir,

The Police Commissioner is seeking the opinion of the residents of Durham and Darlington on whether they agree to an increase in council tax of just 2% on the policing budget which if carried would mean an increase of just 4p a week.

This sounds a rather minimal amount as last year it was increased by 2% (but it was not put up for debate). The result of this was that crime and policing got their wish.

If you check the increases each year from 2015/2016/2017 the budget has increased by 2%. But what Ron Hogg fails to tell us is that Durham County Council put their budget up 2%, Fire and Rescue 2% GATC 2%, and Adult Social Care by 100%. Are these areas not in need of increases as well in this year’s budget? This meant that the yearly increase on a Band ‘A’ house this year was billed an extra £43.25.

Can we now look at some income and outgoings? They have sold off our old police station, moving in with the Fire Service with restricted opening hours. They are selling off Aykley Heads grounds and police HQ.

Yet, according to the commissioner they are strapped for cash but they are building an all singing and dancing new HQ in Durham with state of art high tech equipment.

They do not have funding for beat officers so can the Commissioner inform the people, who pays the employer’s contribution side of the police pension, who pays the lump sum of retiring officers and shortfalls of the scheme – the Police or DCC?

How much have Durham Police got hidden, or invested in money-making schemes to be used in times of difficult financial times, such as now?

I await the response from one of his legions of staff he probably has to help him out on his day to day tasks.

Name and address supplied

Police Commissioner Replies:

Dear Editor

The letter from an anonymous reader makes a number of inaccurate points about funding for policing. I am responding to show how I have saved money for the taxpayer.

The new combined police and fire station is right in the middle of Newton Aycliffe, where local people told me they wanted it, and it has generated savings. Selling the old police station brought in revenue for much-needed new police vehicles and better IT systems. The sale also saved the force around £80,000 a year in running costs.

Similarly, it costs about half as much to run the new Police HQ at Aykley Heads compared to the old one. Selling the old site also generated significant income which more than covered the cost of building the new offices.

Of course, I am not in a position to influence the precept of other organisations such as the Fire and Rescue Service or the two Councils. Police pensions are paid from a separate pension fund, and not from local taxation. I can also assure your readers that the level of police reserves is publicly available: there is no ‘hidden money’. The cost of running my office has reduced significantly, and is £250,000 less than before I came into office and the role was undertaken by the Police Authority.

I would not be asking residents whether or not they are prepared to pay more, unless there was a real need for me to do so. The reality is that Government funding for Durham Constabulary has reduced by 22% since 2010, with a consequent fall in the number of officers. An additional 4-6p a week would help maximise the number of officers on our streets. You can find the survey on my website.

Ron Hogg

Police, Crime and Victims’ Commissioner