Beds, Herts & Bucks

Bedfordshire Police council tax rise rejected at referendum

Bedfordshire Police HQ Image copyright Google
Image caption Bedfordshire Police currently raises 29% of its funding through council tax

Council taxpayers in Bedfordshire have voted against a £4.5m rise in their bills to pay for the police.

A referendum took place on Thursday prompted by Olly Martins, the county's Police & Crime Commissioner (PCC), who wanted to fund 100 extra officers.

The rise would have meant 32p extra a week for a band A property and 48p for band D.

The result was 30.5% (91,086 votes) in favour of the tax rise and 69.5% (207,551 votes) against.

Image copyright Bedfordshire PCC
Image caption PCC Olly Martins wanted to raise an extra £4.5m a year to provide 100 more police officers

The increase had been introduced in April, but the referendum had to take place because the council tax rise would have been above 2%.

Council taxpayers' bills will now be re-calculated removing the increase in the police precept.

Mr Martins, elected on a Labour ticket, said the result would mean a reduction of up to 135 uniformed officers from the existing 1,067.

"The budget will be £1.28m less in the current year than it was last year [£102m], and the cumulative impact of anticipated government funding cuts is projected to lead to a £6m shortfall," he said.

"Due to the lack of properly resourced neighbourhood policing teams, Bedfordshire is potentially a weak link in the fight against terrorism and organised crime."

'Poor judgement'

But Richard Fuller, Conservative MP for Bedford, said: "If holding a special election wouldn't cost even more money, I would ask [Mr Martins] to resign right now.

"The referendum was nothing to do with challenging the national funding formula - it just demonstrated his incredibly poor judgement.

"Our hope now is that, with a new government, all of Bedfordshire's MPs, Conservative and Labour, can unite to make a case for changing that funding formula."

Mr Martin estimated the cost of holding the referendum was £350,000 with £250,000 being spent by councils on the re-billing and rejected the claim he had used poor judgement.

"I don't regret holding a referendum as I wasn't going to fiddle while Rome burned and we lost police officers," he said.

A Home Office spokesman said: "It is up to individual PCCs to determine the size and composition of their workforce and how best to allocate their budgets but there is no question that the police will still have the resources to do their important work."

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