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Dorset police and crime commissioner David Sidwick 'sorry' for maximum council tax hike

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DORSET’S police and crime commissioner has apologised for making the maximum increase possible in the force's budget next year.

It will add an extra £10 a year for band D homes from April, writes Trevor Bevins of the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

Commissioner David Sidwick said that the alternative "no nothing" scenario would have resulted in the loss of more than 60 front-line staff.

David Sidwick
David Sidwick

He told a budget meeting that even with the increase the police would still have to make significant savings, but said he remained committed to a tougher attitude to crime and anti-social behaviour.

“We are going to become crime-fighters again,” he told the police and crime panel which unanimously approved the police's share of the council tax, with a budget amounting to just short of £78m.

For band D homes it will mean paying £265.58p a year for the police – a rise of just under 4%. The rest of the council tax for Christchurch residents comprises a majority charge from BCP Council, plus town and parish councils and the fire service.

Mr Sidwick claimed the extra amount was overwhelmingly supported by most people in an online consultation in December.

Councillors were reassured that the cost of a new HQ at Winfrith would not add to this year’s precept.

Responding to a question about other police property, Mr Sidwick said savings which could be taken had mostly been achieved already although he said that current police stations at Christchurch and Wimborne were being looked at for disposal with new facilities, better suited to both towns, likely to replace them.

He said that his vision for the year ahead was to continue stepping up proactive policing, making Dorset a “hostile environment” for criminals, especially for more serious offences and organised groups.

He would refocus on anti-social behaviour, which he said had been neglected, and violence against women and girls. He also promised to step up an election commitment to tackle rural crime.

Budget assumptions include a predicted 2.5% pay award for staff. With an expected 67 additional officers due to be recruited pay pressures are expected to increase by just over £6m in the year ahead.

Despite the increases the force is still expecting a budget gap of £2.6m but is planning to make identified savings of £1.9m during the year, hoping to find the remaining £500,000 shortfall as the year progresses.

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