London council tax bills face £35 hike for police and fire

17 Oct 02
Londoners could face a huge rise in council tax next year to pay for Mayor Ken Livingstone's spending plans, after the capital's police and fire services said they needed a rise of £35 per household to cover their operations alone.

18 October 2002

At a meeting of the Greater London Authority's budget committee on October 15, senior members of the Metropolitan Police Authority claimed that the projected costs of running the Met in 2003/04 could be covered only by a 23% increase in the force's precept. That equates to an average council tax rise of £30 across the capital.

London's fire authorities, meanwhile, suggested that their share of the precept should rise by around 7% – £5 in tax. The figures suggest a tax rise in excess of £45 is likely to be the starting point for negotiations on the final budget. This is due to be announced by Livingstone in February, once the cost of GLA administration is taken into account.

Both emergency services' claims were given short shrift by members of the budget committee, but may receive support from the mayor, who has promised to put 1,000 extra police officers on London's streets next year and improve funding for fire services.

Toby Harris, chair of the MPA, said that the Met would have 'around 1,000' new staff available, but claimed around 160 trained officers would be forced to fill administrative roles formerly performed by civilians because of financial constraints.

Ian Blair, deputy chief commissioner of the Met, told Public Finance: 'We all want extra police on the streets. But the demands on the service mean that we need heavy backroom support.'

Sally Hamwee, chair of the committee, said she would ask Livingstone if his 'simplistic and superficially attractive figure translates into the most effective way of delivering good policing'.

Valerie Shawcross, chair of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority, said the proposed fire precept increase was down to higher wage costs and the possible loss of £29m from the government's new grant distribution formula.

Taxpayers could have to pay even more if the government does not cover the extra funding required to settle the current wage dispute in the sector, she added.


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