Cleveland Police chief defends council tax rise after heavy criticism from Hartlepool councillors

Barry Coppinger in Murray Street
Barry Coppinger in Murray Street

A POLICE chief has defended the need for Cleveland Police to rise its element of council tax bills after heavy criticism from some councillors.

Earlier this year councillors finalised Council Tax bills but while Hartlepool Borough Council froze its element, both Cleveland Fire Authority and Cleveland Police had increased their precepts.

At the time some councillors hit out at the Police and Crime Commissioner Barry Coppinger because of controversial plans that will see Hartlepool lose 17 of its PCSOs, with some members saying why should Hartlepool residents be “paying more for less”.

After a lengthy debate, the 2014-15 bills were confirmed but it was agreed to write a letter to Mr Coppinger to outline the members concerns. The police chief has since replied and his response will be discussed at a meeting of full council this Thursday, May 8.

While the local authority froze its element for the fourth successive year, the fire authority agreed a 1.9 per cent increase and the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner Barry Coppinger backed a 1.997 per cent rise.

It meant residents’ annual bills going up slightly, between £3 and £10 a year depending on what grade of property they live in between Band A or H.

In reply, Mr Coppinger wrote: “You will recall I visited the council with senior police officers towards the end of last year, to outline the financial situation and give a presentation regarding the medium-term financial strategy we have developed to respond to government cuts in grant and which included a 1.997 precept increase - i.e between 5p to 8p per week for properties in Bands A to D.

“This was also communicated to all householders in a leaflet enclosed with the council tax.

“I have so far received no complaints in this respect directly from Hartlepool residents or members.”

In January 2013, Cleveland Police announced a shake-up of the service was underway to make £26m in real-term cuts by the 2014-15 financial year following the Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review in April 2010.

Mr Coppinger said the force’s financial strategy included reducing the number of police officers, Police Community Support Officers and police staff, closing premises and renegotiating external contracts.

In his letter, Mr Coppinger added: “My impression is that the restructuring of the force has helped deliver continuing crime reductions in Hartlepool and I am continually impressed by the excellent partnership working in Hartlepool and the role of the police in this, which has my full support.”

The annual bill for a Band A property without a parish council is £1,126.66 – or £93.88 a month. Council tax payers in a Band B property are paying £1,314.44 or £109.53 a month and those in a Band D property £1,689.99 or £140 a month. The full council meeting takes place Thursday, May 8, at the Civic Centre, Victoria Road, at 7pm.