PLANS for the police and the fire service in Cumbria to get more money from council tax have been given the green light.

Members of Cumbria police, fire and crime panel approved measures to raise the council tax precept for the police by 4.36 per cent and for the fire service by 2.98 per cent when they met on January 31.

The proposed increase in the precept will see a Band D council taxpayer pay £12.96 more to the police and £2.70 more to the fire service each year.

Cumbria police, fire and crime commissioner Peter McCall said: “Setting the council tax precept is one of the trickiest things that we have to do every year.

“We all know what pressures everyone’s under with the cost of living but to continue delivering the level of service, we do have to raise the precept.”

According to documents from the Office of the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner (OPFCC), the majority of commissioners intend to utilise their power to increase the precept by the maximum amount of £13 for a band D property in 2024/25,

The proposed rise in the police precept on council tax will provide £55.7 million for the commissioner and the constabulary. The total gross expenditure for the constabulary and commissioner is £177.6 million.

The majority of the rest of the budget is provided by Home Office, with £90.3 million in core and ringfenced grants. 

Chief Constable Rob Carden told the panel the performance of the force is the ‘best’ in Cumbria’s history.

According to police figures, crime overall is down by 9.1 per cent, arrests are up by 9.8 per cent and stop and search is up by 106 per cent on the past year.

Mr Carden said: “Arrests are going up, drugs recovery is going up, seek and you shall find.

“If you’re not looking for it, you’re not going to find it. I want restless police officers in this force that police on the front foot.

“It’s one of the best performing forces in the country. I’m hoping to be the new Durham, I want to be small but mighty, small but perfectly formed. I want us to influence national policing and make Cumbrians safe and make Cumbrians proud.”

A report prepared for the panel said in the short term the proposed precept increase will enable the budget to be balanced without reducing services. In the medium term, the precept increase will contribute to the ‘sustainability’ of the enhanced officer numbers.

It adds: “However, under current financial assumptions, there will still be a need to identify savings beyond 2024/25 to balance the budget over the period of the medium-term financial forecast period.

“Over the life of the medium-term financial forecast the net cost of policing services is estimated to increase by £17.708m from the 2024/25 budget of £158.014m to £175.722m by 2028/29.

“This is due to the ongoing impact of increased police officer numbers, increased police officer pension contributions, inflation on salary and supplies and services costs, offset by a reduced cost of pensions. Police pension costs fluctuate year on year and, to a large degree, will be funded by a central government grant.

“Whilst other costs are subject to increase, work during the budget process has been undertaken to challenge requirements and reduce cost.”

The proposed 2.98 per cent rise in the precept for Cumbria Commissioner Fire & Rescue Authority will provide £16.7 million in funding. For a Band D council taxpayer this is an annual increase of £2.70.

Chief finance office for the PFCC Steven Tickner said: “That will ensure the service consolidates its financial position and continues to deliver day to day services, invests in equipment for the fleet. It also gives us the opportunity to build those levels of reserves.”

“That gives us the sustainability in the long-term to deal with the unexpected should it occur.”