AN ABOVE-inflation 5.5% increase in the police share of council tax has been agreed despite it being rejected by the public and members of the county’s Police and Crime Panel.

David Munro, Surrey’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), put forward the proposal, which will increase the policing element of an average Band D bill by £15 a year to £285.57, to fund extra officers and operational support roles over the coming year.

However, in the public consultation carried out by the PCC’s office, 51% of the 4,500 respondents opposed the increase, and a majority of the county’s Police and Crime Panel members present at an online meeting this week to consider the precept did not support the proposal. But there were insufficient votes to veto the proposal and the precept was agreed.

Cllr Paul Kennedy, the Liberal Democrat candidate for Surrey’s Police and Crime Commissioner, called the outcome a “crisis of legitimacy” and criticised Mr Munro’s decision to continue with the increase in the face of clear opposition.

The majority of the panel voted to reject the proposed increase, but as two-thirds of the whole panel did not vote against the precept rise, there were insufficient votes to veto it.

Commenting on the decision, Cllr Kennedy said: “Pressing ahead with another large increase when so many people are suffering financially is unprecedented and outrageous. It creates a further crisis of legitimacy for the Conservatives’ deeply flawed and derided PCC model.

“We have a former Conservative PCC, at the end of the fifth year of his term, ignoring the concerns of the public and the panel, and imposing an inflation-busting increase on Surrey council-tax payers, who already pay the highest share of police funding in the country.”

 Combined with Surrey Police’s next allocation of the 20,000 officers promised by Government nationally, the force can add 150 police officer and operational posts during 2021-22.

The rise in the precept will allow the force to invest in an additional 10 officer and 67 operational support staff roles.

Mr Munro said: “Police resources have been stretched to the limit over the past decade and I have pledged to do everything I can to put more officers back into our communities, tackling those issues that matter to Surrey residents.

“So I’m pleased that this year’s precept has been agreed, which will mean more numbers added to the Surrey Police establishment to provide a badly needed boost to our front line.

“When I launched our consultation last month I said asking the public for more money during these difficult times was one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make as PCC.

“That has been borne out in our survey, which showed a really even split in people’s views on supporting my proposed rise, and I fully appreciate the hardship lots of people are facing during this extremely difficult period.

“But I firmly believe that in these uncertain times the role our police teams play in keeping our communities safe has never been more important, and that tipped the balance for me in recommending this increase.

“I would like to thank all those members of the public who took the time to fill in our survey and give us their views. We received over 2,500 comments from people and I have read each and every one.

“I want to ensure that our residents get the very best value for money from their police force. I will be making sure these extra roles are filled as quickly as possible so they can start making a difference to our communities.”

Cllr Kennedy added: “We all want to support our police. The Liberal Democrats and I welcome and support the extra investment in officers, victim support, rural crime and road safety, which my colleagues and I have been calling for.

“However, after five years of council tax rises and minimal efficiency savings, we could and should be getting this already.”