Published: 19:25, 04 February 2021
| Updated: 10:09, 05 February 2021
Kent households will pay an extra 7.4% on the police portion of council tax bills from April after contentious proposals were approved earlier today.
Kent Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott said the 1.8 million people living in the county would receive a "good deal" from the force during the next financial year.
The money generated from council tax will cover a range of growing financial pressures including the pandemic, the Napier Barracks in Folkestone, IT projects, new equipment and pay rises, a two-hour virtual meeting this afternoon was told.
Under this, a £6m pressure exists from staff delaying their retirement to continue to serve amid the Covid-19 emergency. On average, 25 people typically retire from the force every month, but only nine did last December.
Defending the hikes, Mr Scott told a panel of councillors: "I do not do this because I like putting people's council tax up. I do it because I think it is necessary to provide the first-class service that people want to see."
However, some councillors raised concerns about the "value for money" as the annual bill proposals were reluctantly given the nod by 13 out of 16 councillors during a heated meeting of the Kent and Medway Police and Crime Panel.
In December, Kit Malthouse, Minister for Policing, empowered all UK police and crime commissioners to be "flexible" in setting their tax bill, with the maximum limit set at 7.4% for April 2021 to April 2022.
The maximum increase would generate an extra £288m across England, but police and crime commissioners would be "locally accountable" for the move.
From April, a Band D home in Kent will be expected to pay £218 towards policing in their annual tax bill, an increase of £15.
The police precept makes up around 10% of the total annual council tax bill including the fire service, district council, Kent County Council or Medway.
Concerned over the tax hike, Gravesham Borough Council leader John Burden (Lab), who voted against the proposed rises, said: "Kent Police are a very good police force, but this does not represent good value for money."
He added: "A lot of the increased costs the force are facing, managing the Brexit process and immigration numbers, remain a national issue and should be paid for by the government."
"Whilst it gives me no pleasure raising council tax, I believe this is good value for money for the people of Kent."
He said it was "unreasonable" to ask Kent residents to keep paying for such matters.
Dartford council cabinet member, Cllr Richard Wells (Con), who supported the move, said: "I understand we have an outstanding police force in Kent.
"But there are areas in Dartford where the residents do not necessarily share that view and want to see more from the police and want more from them."
Kent Police hopes around 145 new officers will have joined its ranks by March 2022 in a £10m package, paid for by the Home Office. It will mean Kent has the highest number of bobbies in its history, a total of 3,970 officers.
Defending the tax hike, Mr Scott said: "Any money left over will go back into resourcing front-line policing to recruit more officers and staff."
Commenting after the meeting, Mr Scott added: “Whilst it gives me no pleasure raising council tax, I believe this is good value for money for the people of Kent. We are reducing crime, bringing anti-social behaviour down and supporting victims of crime. We are making Kent safer.
“We have more police in Kent now than ever before and they are making a difference. Their work has continued through the challenges of the pandemic and they are doing an excellent job”.