Tax rises will save police and fire cuts

CUTS to the fire and police services have been saved - but council tax payers will have to foot the bill.

South Yorkshire Police Authority has agreed a £251 million budget for 2012/13 which will allow the force to keep 110 police officers and 22 police community support officers.

But to pay for them council tax payers will see a 3.95 per cent rise in the amount they contribute through their police precept. For the average band D council tax payer, the rise represents £5.22 a year.

Chairman of the Police Authority Charles Perryman said: “By combining our reserves with an increase in council tax, we will now be able to provide more than 130 extra front line policing staff across South Yorkshire next year.”

“This will support the authority’s long-term strategy of maintaining visible police presence and emergency response times.”

Police Authority vice chairman Shaun Wright added: “In setting this budget, the authority has recognised the pressures facing South Yorkshire communities, and the importance of maintaining the fight against crime.”

South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Authority has also agreed to put up its council tax precept to avoid cutbacks caused by Government funding cuts.

The raise will give the brigade an extra £1million to spend, but means it will cost each household between £1.60 and £2.40 extra a year on their council tax bill.

The authority also agreed a budget of £57m for next 12 months and voted to reject a one-off government incentive payment to freeze the council tax precept.

Speaking after the meeting, chairman Jim Andrews said the council tax rise was effectively an insurance policy to help secure long-term funding and safeguard against risks to the emergency service.

He said: “The authority faced a difficult decision because the Government grant was for one year only. If we had accepted it, this time next year we would have faced either putting up council tax by a double increase, or making further cuts to the service.”

Mr Andrews added: “This was not a straightforward decision.”

“No authority wants to put extra costs on to hard-pressed council tax payers, but on balance we felt an extra 5p or less a week was a worthwhile price to pay if it helped to secure the future of the fire service. Its success or failure is measured in minutes, and we will not take risks with public safety.”