Raise council tax to fix policing, says think tank

A think tank has called for an increase in council tax to pay for more police officers
A think tank has called for an increase in council tax to pay for more police officers in neighbourhoods - whitemay
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A one per cent weekly rise in council tax could help fix neighbourhood policing in England and Wales, a think tank has said.

Onward has proposed that the 43 police forces in England and Wales need to recruit 19,000 neighbourhood officers to restore numbers to 2012 levels.

The think tank said it would meet the public demand for more visible policing to help curb persistent crimes, such as anti-social behaviour, theft and burglary.

The Government has added 20,000 more police officers in the past three years, but the number covering local neighbourhood beats is still 10 per cent down on 2012.

Onward urged the Government to scrap the current £13 cap on council tax increases to allow local authorities to raise it by 45p a week to pay for two new local officers in taxpayers’ neighbourhoods.

James Cleverly, the Home Secretary, said he was “absolutely committed” to neighbourhood policing, welcomed the Onward report and urged the authorities to take notice of its findings:

‘Visible’ policing

“I have been clear that officers should be focusing on core policing on the beat and visible in their areas,” he said. “Whilst we may not support each and every one of their proposals, I welcome the thinking that Onward has provoked and would encourage policing to read it carefully.”

According to the report, police community support officer numbers have nearly halved (down 45 per cent), while the level of special constables has plummeted by two thirds (66 per cent) since 2012.

The researchers found that the public did not feel safer despite falling overall crime partly because of the decline in neighbourhood policing.

In 2019, three quarters said the police were doing a “good job”, compared with half now. Only 11 per cent of people saw weekly police foot patrols in 2022, compared with 26 per cent in 2011.

The proportion of the public that has experienced anti-social behaviour has increased by a fifth since 2012, despite reports to the police falling 55 percentage points.

Safer communities

The number of shoplifting offences on high streets had jumped by quarter in a year with police failing to identify a suspect in more than half of cases.

Onward urged the Government to hire 3,000 neighbourhood police officers, 10,000 police community support officers and 6,000 special constables over the next five years, costing nearly £600 million a year.

Katy Bourne, Police and Crime Commissioner for Sussex, said: “Crime is falling, but more work needs to be done to make communities feel safe. That means tackling crimes like anti-social behaviour and shoplifting through visible, neighbourhood policing.

Callum Newton, Onward senior researcher, said: “The decline of neighbourhood policing has created a vacuum for criminals in some of Britain’s most disadvantaged areas.

“The Government cannot allow this to continue. Government and chief constables should work together to introduce a new Neighbourhood Policing Uplift Programme designed to combat crime, build trust and re-establish police presence on Britain’s streets.”

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