Somerset Police Funding Agreed
It is not often that Police force funding makes the headlines in this part of the world. Police & Crime Commissioner (PCC) Sue Mountstevens proposed a budget for 2021/22 earlier this month. The budget proposed was for a precept of £15, in line with most other Police Forces in England and Wales. In what quickly became an acrimonious dispute, that proposal was vetoed by the Police & Crime Panel. Avon & Somerset was the only force in the country to have its proposals vetoed.
Meeting again today, (19 February) Sue Mounstevens came back with a reduced proposal. This asked the panel to approve a precept of £13.39. The extra money to fund the Police will be taken from reserves. But as the PCC pointed out, this is not a sustainable solution for the long term. As she also pointed out, it won’t be her problem as she will not be standing for re-election in May.
Some of the ill will from the previous meeting came through from the very beginning. Sedgemoor representative Janet Keen started. She appeared to be more interested in taking offence at the language used than the actual content of the proposal.
The very public veto and some of the reporting of it drew a long shadow over the meeting. Some councillors tried to suggest no offence was meant and officers should be assured of their support. The PCC was scathing. She told the meeting “Your veto did effect the morale of the Police. It was the only veto in the country. It did effect morale and our officers were disappointed.”
There were lots of questions but the meeting was a muted affair. In the end the proposal was put to support the PCC’s precept. Everyone except Somerset County Council representative Josh Williams, voted in favour. Mr Williams who did not speak at the meeting, abstained.