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Police & Crime Commissioner’s Office ‘Cannot Carry On’ Without Tax Rise

Published on: 6 Feb, 2022
Updated on: 6 Feb, 2022

PCC Lisa Townsend at Mount Browne, Guildford, in November 2021. Photo Darren Pepe

By Emily Coady-Stemp

local democracy reporter

Surrey’s Police and Crime Commissioner was handed a 50p coin by a councillor today after pleading for average council tax bills to rise by £10 to pay for policing the county.

Lisa Townsend, who was elected in May 2021, said she needed the rise partly to expand her workforce as the office is “simply not in a position to carry on” as it is.

The proposed increase to council tax of £10 was approved by a meeting of Surrey County Council’s Police and Crime panel on Friday (February 4), but they also passed a recommendation asking the commissioner to not increase the amount of money going to her office.

Cllr Keith Witham

Surrey and Guildford Borough Councillor Keith Witham (Con, Worplesdon (SCC) and Pirbright (GBC)) said he understood that nationally it was a difficult time with rising prices and an emphasis on extra costs.

He said: “But with all due respect I don’t think that £10 per year on a council tax bill is unreasonable.”

He mentioned that a finance officer had previously pointed out that the increase meant that 40 pence a year per person would be going to the commissioner’s office.

He dug a 50p coin out of his pocket, passing it down the table towards the commissioner, saying: “I’ll give you an extra 10p, I don’t mind.”

‘People don’t really know what I do’

The Police and Crime Commissioner is elected by the public on a four-year term to hold police forces to account and set policing priorities, as well as a force’s budget.

She outlined that out of the 43 Police and Crime Commissioner offices in the country, only three were smaller than Surrey’s and said that the changes were being proposed for the benefit of residents of Surrey and for the Surrey Police force.

She said to the panel, made up of borough, district and county councillors from across Surrey: “I think with regard in particular to communications it is probably true that residents don’t really know what the Police and Crime Commissioner does.

“I think the work with commissioning, government, complaints, holding to account, being the voice of the public, needs to be understood better by residents and quite possibly, particularly in light of some of the questions that I’ve seen, by the panel too.”

She gave an example of one member of staff who was owed 134 hours of overtime and that to the current communications team of one and a half people, they owed more than 100 hours.

She said: “I think it’s fair to say that pretty much every member of staff in the office is owed at least a week of overtime right now.

“Money that they are not going to get back and holiday that they know they are not going to be able to take. We are simply not in a position to carry on as we are.”

In an ending to the meeting that had turned “sour” according to its chair, Townsend said she would ensure her new communications member of staff, to be hire on the increased funding, would make sure that people knew what her office did.

Mole Valley District Councillor Paul Kennedy (Liberal Democrat, Fetcham West) had submitted 51 written questions ahead of the meeting, of which 14 related to the budget for the commissioner’s office.

He pointed out that in an election year and with a new commissioner coming in, a busier year could have been expected in 2021 but might not be next year.

He said: “I’m not persuaded that I can sell to council taxpayers that scale of increase, when I would hope that the burden will be less going forward than it was in, what has clearly been, a dramatic first year for the commissioner.”

It was pointed out that some of the money for the increase in roles in the commissioner’s office would be coming from savings, to ease the pressure on the money coming from council tax contributions.

Mrs Townsend said after the vote to approve: “The extra comms officer that we will be employing is going to be doing an awful lot of work with the public to explain what the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner does, and I hope that the work that they are doing also helps to inform those members who have concerns about it as well.”

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test 4 Responses to Police & Crime Commissioner’s Office ‘Cannot Carry On’ Without Tax Rise

  1. Mark Stamp Reply

    February 6, 2022 at 3:44 pm

    Why does the PCC need to have a communications team apart from to make her look good to keep her in office? At Angela Richardson’s Guildford Forum event there was a discussion about how borough, county and parliamentary elected officials don’t collaborate as much as they could due to different politics, PCCs are another example where there are too many fiefdoms that don’t work well together for the good of residents.

    I am in favour of a tax rise if it went to fund front line policing but not to fund another public relations department.

  2. Ben Paton Reply

    February 6, 2022 at 7:02 pm

    Would anyone notice if the PCC office disappeared altogether?

    On the few occasions I contacted the PCC (not this one) I was brushed off with “the PCC does not get involved in operational matters”. What is the point of them then?

    Most PCC’s seem to be mouthpieces for the police rather than guardians of the public interest.

    The “Crimebodge” website does more on a fraction of the budget.

    • Mark Bray-Parry Reply

      February 8, 2022 at 10:12 am

      It’s a valid question but, unfortunately, it appears Mrs Townsend requires an additional communications officer funded by a £10 council tax hike to explain to the public exactly what it is that she does.

      Mark Bray-Parry is a spokesperson for the Guildford Green Party

  3. Sam Peters Reply

    February 8, 2022 at 9:48 am

    The only thing I’ve ever seen this PCC do is attack trans rights – surely not just outside her remit but actively against the Nolan Principles and her supposed duty to represent all residents.

    The only interaction I’ve had with her is when she decided to respond to a Facebook comment I made (on a completely unrelated page – not directly to her) about how the country had 27,000 fewer police staff (21,000 fewer officers) since her party took over in 2010, claiming this wasn’t true. After being given several steers to sources for these basic facts, she abruptly stopped responding. A follow-up email to her office asking whether she was unaware of this fact, or the concerns about seriously declining recruitment standards to make up the shortfall, remains unanswered.

    I can’t say I’m surprised that people either don’t seem to know what the PCC does, or unfortunately know all too well that at least one of the things she’s happy to spend her time doing is talking at conferences run by organisations that have been described as hate groups, such as the LGBA.

    Sam Peters is a former local elections Green Party candidate

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