Harry Fone is grassroots campaign manager for the TaxPayers’ Alliance.
I’ve previously explored potential savings that could be made by police and crime commissioners across the country. Leaving aside wasteful extravagances such as branded merchandise, a big sticking point is whether or not deputy PCCs are necessary.
As part of a review, the government is set to legislate that all PCCs must employ a deputy. Currently, just 13 out of 40 areas have voluntarily done so. New research from the TaxPayers’ Alliance has delved further into the costs of police and crime commissioners and the findings are interesting. Given that the policing precept adds an additional burden to council tax bills, are taxpayers getting bang for their buck?
Analysis of Offices of the Police and Crime Commissioners (OPCCs) budgets compared to precept increases make for interesting reading. In total, 26 OPCCs registered an underspend for 2020-21 with the highest in percentage terms falling to Hertfordshire at 31 per cent under budget. But despite this, it still implemented the maximum possible increase of £15 (Band D) for its policing precept. In cash terms West Mercia had the largest underspend at £1.3million but only increased its precept by £6.57.
Just four OPCCs, Cumbria, Devon and Cornwall, Lancashire, and Leicestershire registered relatively small overspends of 1.25 per cent or less. Combining all the budgets for OPCCs reveals the taxpayer forked out nearly £76.7 million in 2020-21, with an average of £2.2 million per office. Of the 26 that didn’t max out their budgets and underspent, 21 increased their precept by the maximum permissible amount. While it’s great that they managed finances well it does beg the question, was such a high increase in precepts for the following year essential?
When it comes to PCC and deputy PCC remuneration, things get even more interesting. The large range of remuneration is quite surprising. North Yorkshire’s commissioner had the lowest remuneration at £74,000. Meanwhile neighbouring West Yorkshire’s commissioner topped the charts with total remuneration of £127,388 in 2020-21. Add to this a deputy commissioner with remuneration in excess of £64,000 and the cost to taxpayers for just these two positions was nearly £192,000. For deputies, the lowest remuneration came in North Wales at just a smidge under £14,000. At the other end of the scale, Essex splashed out over £76,000.
In total, remuneration for PCCs and their deputies across the whole country amounted to £2.9million. Were the Government to carry out its intentions to make the deputy PCC role mandatory the increase in remuneration would be £2.1million based on current data and an average remuneration of £52,315.
It remains to be seen whether the government will actually implement its recommendations. Although some will argue that £2.1million is a drop in the ocean of public spending, and deputy PCCs are necessary, do we really want to further burden council tax payers? After all, it is quite telling that so few OPCCs have hired a deputy. Given one of the major selling points of PCCs is direct democracy why does this issue have to be legislated at the national level? Wouldn’t it be better to let local residents and taxpayers decide what is best?