TIM PASSMORE: How we’ll use your extra Council Tax
I was delighted to read of the success of Bury St Edmunds rugby club who, at the time of writing, are at the top of National League 3.
The club has made huge progress in the last few years at senior level and I was particularly impressed with the performance of their colts side when I had the pleasure of refereeing them in January over at Southwold.
The club has now taken the extremely bold step to turn semi-professional next season, a decision that has significant financial and reputational implications for them and Suffolk sport as a whole. I do wish them the best of luck and hope they gain promotion in April.
I believe there are many positive benefits and lessons to be learned from sport for business in general and this includes our Suffolk Constabulary.
Developing a strong culture of teamwork, sound finances, pride, confidence and commitment is so important for ensuring long-term success.
The Constabulary has had some excellent results in reducing recorded crime last year - the second best performance in the country – and a great deal of this is down to teamwork.
The most critical part of my role as your PCC is to ensure there is an efficient and effective police force, as set out in the legislation. I have to make sure every penny of taxpayers’ money is spent wisely and hold the Chief Constable to account for his actions. I need to seek reassurance on your behalf that all operational actions are clearly in the public interest and the Chief Constable is doing everything he can to maximise financial efficiency – you could say it’s rather like being a team captain.
Last month, the Police and Crime Panel unanimously supported my proposal to increase the policing element of your Council Tax by 6p per week for a band D property. This is the first increase in three years.
Returning to my team captain comparison, as PCC I have to make choices, prioritise actions and provide clear directions or instructions. One thing is certain, any changes need good support from the Constabulary and the public so it was very reassuring that our online Council Tax survey received more than 1,650 responses and 80 per cent of replies supported an increase.
The extra £835,000 we’ll receive from the Council Tax increase will provide extra resources for specific policing functions including child sexual exploitation, serious sexual offences, roads policing and economic crime. Suffolk is only one of two forces nationally that has increased its roads policing capacity in the last two years. The business community is very supportive of my stance on roads policing, as this recognises the national and international economic importance of major roads such as the A14.
We all need to remember that the pattern of crime is changing and the Constabulary has to take a proactive approach to maintain Suffolk’s reputation as being a low crime county, despite facing a budget reduction of more than £20 million in the next five years.
There’s absolutely no need at all to be downhearted and pessimistic – that’s just not the Suffolk way! The government is providing extra financial assistance to those areas that are prepared to change the way they work and pool resources and I’m determined to get our fair share of his funding.
Suffolk as a county has an outstanding reputation for working across agencies. So far we have received an extra £3.3 million for transforming services and well over £5 million for joint working and initiatives with the fire and rescue service.
During the next financial year, Suffolk will need to pool resources across the public and voluntary sectors so we can do more for less. It is particularly encouraging that many council leaders, health service executives and voluntary organisations are up for the challenge and are as impatient as I am to make significant progress. Those of us who are in elected positions must step up to the mark.
Later this month we are starting the first bold and radical steps to fuse activity across the various sectors in community safety and public access. It won’t be easy, but this work has to be done. The sporting comparison is once again very relevant since you would never plan to lose or draw a fixture – you go all out to win and that’s what we will try to do in Suffolk. Putting the county first and forgetting about which organisation we belong to, will help Suffolk win. Churchill said: “Give us the tools and we will finish the job.” It sounds to me that Churchill must have had some strong Suffolk blood somewhere.
-- Tim Passmore is Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner