PM squares up to Olly on vote

Police Crime Commissioner Olly Martin
Police Crime Commissioner Olly Martin

An historic referendum to raise cash to put more bobbies on the beat is to go ahead in the face of opposition from the Prime Minister.

Bedfordshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Olly Martins announced on Wednesday he was launching the referendum to raise the police precept by 15.8 per cent.

The cash raised will put 100 bobbies back into neighbourhood policing.

Austerity measures and previous decisions not to raise the precept had left the county with a funding crisis, he claimed.

PCC Martins was in Biggleswade at an ASDA store yesterday afternoon to speak to residents about the proposals.

When asked whether a 15.8 per cent rise would be something people wanted most people felt this would be too much.

Lynne Sims said: “Absolutely not we pay too much as it is. I don’t think they need more money from us.”

However, when told it would be an increase which would equate to 48p per week there was overwhelming support for the increase.

Kerry Robinson said: “It would definitely make a difference to have more police on the street. It would certainly help to fight crime in the area.”

Similarly Mr H Bodart said: “In this day and age it is always better to have more police and with it only costing around £25 a year I struggle to see a problem with it.”

The county had more serious acqusitive crime – theft and robbery – per officer than any other county, but funding from council tax was the third lowest in the country.

“Quite simply we are underfunded with a lack of resources,” PCC Martins said.

Defending her force, Chief Constable Colette Paul said her “thin blue line” worked incredibly hard.

“We have got hard working officers and our detections are the 11th highest in the country,” she said.

The force had a high serious crime mix compared to many forces and a disproportionately high number of organised crime gangs.

Figures show the cost of policing in Beds is 44p per day per person against a national figure of 55p.

The referendum, held at the same time as the General Election, will ask to raise the police precept by 15.8 per cent, a rise of 48p a week for band D tax payers.

The rise will pay for 75 extra officers in neighbourhood policing – 30 in Central Bedfordshire and 25 officers into safeguarding.

The plans to hike the Beds Police tax precept by 15.8 per cent are ill thought out, according to David Cameron, who was in Bedfordshire on Wednesday.

The Prime Minister praised the force’s work in reducing crime but said that taxpayers should not have to bear the brunt of budget cutbacks.

He said: “The police have done a good job and I don’t think the police and crime commissioner is right to want to increase the amount of council tax in this way.

“Under our rules he’ll have to have a referendum and the local people will decide but I do not want to see taxes go up in the way that he is proposing.”