Last Wednesday I had the pleasure of spending an hour (and a bit) with Surrey Police & Crime Commissioner (PCC) Kevin Hurley.
Although he is a busy man, he was very generous with his time and talked at length about the way policing now works, what he would like to change, where pressures are being most felt.
He was critical of the present government and of the funding formula that sees Surrey get the least amount of money from central government of any County in the Country.
It does beg the question, what have our eleven Conservative MPs in Surrey done to lobby for a bigger share of the money? Particularly as Surrey contribute the second most to UK GDP (second only to the City of London).
We discussed his plan for a possible referendum next May when he will ask the people of Surrey to agree to an increase in budget, funded directly through Council tax that will mean an increase of 99p per week to an average Council Tax Bill to help fill the funding gap.
This particular issue was discussed at length at the recent Crime Summit held at Camberley theatre, which was podcast by Surrey Heath Residents Network.
The two big objections to the 99p per week were that;
a) There would be 40,000 new homes in Surrey in the next ten years so there’s the extra funding, and
b) Why should we pay? The government should be paying.
Thinking about these after the event, I decided that both arguments were flawed;
Yes, 40,000 new homes will bring in significant income (though not enough and not soon enough) but these houses and the people in them will need police help from time to time – they will be victims of burglary, car crime, vandalism. Some may have unruly and delinquent children that cause trouble etc. So unless these 40,000 houses pay in without getting anything in return there is no net benefit. The contribution per household across the County will remain the same.
Whilst I agree that the government should pay – they don’t have any money, it’s all our money. They simply collect it and re-distribute it. Kevin’s plan was for each household to pay an extra £50 per year directly to the Police budget. If this contribution was to come from tax rises (or whatever) and go through the labyrinthine maze of government departments before coming out in Surrey Police pockets how much of the £50 would be left? precious little I’d imagine.
For me, the opportunity to directly fund something that I support rather than contributing to a large pot of money and hoping it gets to where I want it to go, is definitely an improvement.
The following day, Paul Deach also had a session with Kevin via a live Webcast where he answered questions from people across Surrey. It’s an excellent video and well worth the hour listening to.
I am a firm supporter of the Police and the work they do, as is Mrs C. If the referendum comes up next May, we will both be voting in favour.