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11.05.15

Emphatic ‘no’ vote in first ever council tax referendum

Council taxpayers in Bedfordshire have ‘emphatically’ voted against the county’s police and crime commissioner’s (PCC’s) bid to increase the council tax precept by 15.85%. 

A total of 207,551 people voted against the proposal, with only 91,086 in favour. The turnout was 64.1%. 

A breakdown of the referendum results revealed that in Central Bedfordshire 91,716 voted against the increase, compared to 42,682 who were in favour. In Bedford 52,399 voted no, while 28,311 voted yes; and in Luton 63,446 voted against the increase while 20,093 voted in favour. 

The referendum was triggered by Bedfordshire PCC Olly Martins after he imposed a 15.8% increase, to fund 100 extra officers, in his council tax precept for 2015-16. This level was higher than the Coalition’s 2% trigger for a poll which was introduced in 2012-13. 

In a statement Martins said: “The voters of Bedfordshire have given a clear and emphatic verdict. They are not prepared to pay a significant percentage increase in the police precept. 

“But the underlying problem has not gone away. The budget of Bedfordshire Police will now be £1.28m less in the current financial year than it was last year, and the cumulative impact of anticipated government funding cuts is currently projected to lead to a £6m funding shortfall. 

“This will result in a recruitment freeze in the next 18 to 24 months and a reduction of up to 135 police officers, or 12% of our current strength.” 

Labour MP for Luton North Kelvin Hopkins told the BBC that he blamed the wording on the ballot paper for PCC Olly Martins’ referendum defeat. 

“I think it was a brave and honest thing. I certainly voted yes myself,” he said. “The problem was the wording on the paper. If it had said 'would you be prepared to pay 18p a week extra for 100 extra police officers' people might have said yes.” 

Martins added that ground-breaking changes are being made in Bedfordshire to deal with terrorism, cyber-crime, gangs, the abuse of children and those other crimes that have the most impact on people’s lives. 

“But this force has never been fairly funded and with more cuts in policing ahead of us the referendum provided an opportunity to put that right and give Bedfordshire the number of officers that other forces have,” he said. 

He added that it is now upon the government to take notice of the county’s unique circumstances to ensure that the police force has the “resources it needs not just to keep this county safe but to play its proper role in keeping the country safe”.  Martins added that because of this he will be seeking an urgent opportunity to meet with the home secretary to “press our case”.

The April/May 2015 edition of PSE is now available for FREE using the new PSE App, available on iOS and Android. Search ‘Public Sector’ in the App Store / Google Play. 

Comments

Jim Gledhill   19/05/2015 at 12:59

Since the PCC was not allowed to campaign for a yes vote the result is perhaps not surprising. That Central Bedfordshire voters gave the proposition the biggest no is shocking since there are fewer visible police there than in Luton and Bedford. What will they do when villains break in and steal their dosh.

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