Councils across England and Wales have announced plans to raise council tax in their 2023/24 budgets, with many councils increasing rates to the maximum levy permitted (4.99%). With this increase many councils are raising the police precept, a proportion of council tax that goes directly to police budgets. Police precepts usually account for one third of a force’s budget, and is paid directly to the local authority by the taxpayer. In other words, the police precept is part of the police budget paid for directly by the taxpayer, via council tax. Over the last few years we have seen an increase in the proportion of police budgets paid for by police precepts.
Overall annual funding for policing since financial year ending March 2016
The Met police precept
The mayor of London Sadiq Khan announced a 5.4% increase to the police precept in his overall plans to raise council taxes for London, an average £15 yearly increase for Band D properties. This will raise an additional £29.3 million for the Met police budget in the year 2023/24, with plans to ‘fund 500 additional Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) / more police officers to work in local neighbourhoods disproportionately impacted by crime.’ Similar plans to increase police precepts have been announced by councils across England and Wales; including Cambridgeshire, Warwickshire, Nottinghamshire, Dyfed Powys and Cheshire.
However, given the multiple issues the Met police are currently facing, including the conviction of serial rapist and Met police officer David Carrick, the highlighting of a toxic, sexist, homophobic, and racist culture within the Met police through the cases of Carrick, Wayne Couzens and the Charing Cross scandal, to name only a few instances, it is somewhat surprising that the Met police budgets are being increased at the cost of the taxpayer.
Where is the money needed?
Moreover, given the current cost-of-living crisis, particularly impacting poor and marginalised communities, couldn’t an additional £29.3 million be better invested into local housing, mental health and other services so desperately needed instead of into an institution that overpolices and under protects such communities?
The police continue to racially discriminate against Black people and other ethnic minorities. Black people are six times more likely to be stopped and searched than a white person, and the Met police are four times more likely to use force on a Black person, according to their own data. Equally, the relationship between more policing and lower crime rates is questionable, especially given the knock-on effects of overpolicing and its negative impacts on marginalised communities.
Communities that are poor, marginalised, and disproportionately impacted by crime require investment in their social services, such as mental health, women’s services, youth clubs, and social housing. Indeed, crime levels are not just affected by the police, but can also be impacted by investment in social services and community organisations that are required to tackle the root causes of crime and violence, such as deprivation. One study found that the existence of community organisations, or non-profits, had a quantifiable impact on violence levels, specifically murder rates, violence crime rates and property crime rates. This was evidenced during the Defund the Police movement in America in 2020, who highlighted the need to divest from the police and invest in services that would provide alternative forms of public safety. Given the continued lack of funding for mental health services, youth services, and women’s services in the UK, and with the cost-of-living crisis projected to get worse throughout 2023, it is time to question whether taxpayers' funds are best invested in the current police institution.
By volunteering member Ella Thomson
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