Each year, as your police and crime commissioner, I have responsibility for setting the budget for policing in Hertfordshire. It is one of the most important functions for a police and crime commissioner as it sets out how the constabulary will spend its money over the coming year. It also seeks to underline the strategy I have set for how we deliver an effective and efficient police force, one that meets the growing demands of reported crime, protects frontline policing and spends public money wisely.

Ahead of setting the police precept for council tax, I issue an open letter that sets out my proposals and seeks your views on the level of the precept. I firmly believe that in order to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of policing, the police need to be properly resourced and equipped, they need to focus on preventing crime as well as fighting criminals, they need to work with partners and be open and responsive to the needs of the public. Collaborating with our neighbouring police forces has enabled us to improve services at lower cost through the sharing of several operational and back office functions. I have been able to keep council tax low and continue to ensure that, as a Hertfordshire resident, you pay one of the lowest council tax contributions for policing in the country.

This year presents a number of new challenges. Nationally, serious violence is at the highest levels in the last seven years and represents a significant threat. Hertfordshire is not immune to these pressures. In line with the rest of the country Hertfordshire Constabulary have also seen increases in reported fraud, cybercrime and other emerging crime types. It is positive that victims now have the confidence to report the crimes and get the help they require, but it is vital that we have the right capacity to investigate complex cases and safeguard vulnerable people and businesses. Whilst the capability of our detective teams remains excellent to deal with each of these threats, I also recognise that it represents additional pressure on the force’s resources and further investment is needed to build additional capacity and develop our capability to ensure that we continue to meet those demands.

Unlike many police forces that have been cutting back their frontline, I have continued to invest heavily in preserving and strengthening local policing - it remains at the core of my Community Safety and Criminal Justice Plan and a distinct style of policing in Hertfordshire. It helps to create a police force that is embedded in, and supported by, a community working together to cut crime, rather than one which is distant and isolated, only engaging when called upon in an emergency. Our Safer Neighbourhood Teams in each of the 10 districts and boroughs in the

county form the core of this model and help to meet many of the challenges outlined. I was pleased that for the second year running the police inspectorate, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS), praised Hertfordshire as an efficient and ethical force and acknowledged its greater level of spend on frontline operational policing in its value for money profiles relative to other forces of its size.

Thanks to early delivery of efficiencies and prudent financial management, the force built up a significant reserve over a number of years. I have used that fund over the last two years to protect our local policing model and to provide additional funding for the chief constable to respond to spikes in demand. However, those reserves are now much reduced and I need to find alternative funding to replace them so we can retain strong local policing and maintain the increase in officer numbers we have seen this year. I also intend to provide funding for new investments to meet the new priorities I have outlined above.

This year the Government has given police and crime commissioners the flexibility to raise the precept by £24 a year on the average (Band D) household, and I am minded to increase by this amount. This would represent an increase of just less than 50p a week or £2 a month for the average household. This will raise an additional £10.7 million in income which represents a five per cent increase in the total police budget.

The income raised will enable the chief constable to invest to meet current demands and builds on the increases in officer numbers we have achieved this year, taking police officer numbers beyond 2,000 in the next financial year. These additional officers will undertake the proactive work in neighbourhoods that you tell me you want to see and increase capacity in some of our specialist units including our Scorpion Teams to tackle the growing threats from serious violence, county lines and travelling criminality. We know that intervening early and preventing people from entering the criminal justice system is key to reducing demand and achieving better outcomes for individuals and families. Through additional investment, a team of police officers will be deployed to work in schools and with young people to address serious violence and cyber crime. Each district and borough will have at least one named police officer to provide early intervention work.

My community safety and criminal justice plan focuses on putting victims of crime first and finding ways to improve the support they require and their journey through the criminal justice system. Further investment will be made in improving the service that victims receive and the outcomes for victims engaged with the criminal justice system. This will include an expansion of our Beacon Victim Support team to provide a much more comprehensive service to victims of cybercrime and fraud.

This is a positive and transformative budget which will bring some significant benefits over the next year. In summary, I am proposing to increase the police element of the council tax precept by £24 (a 14.6 per cent increase for an average Band D household). This rise will ensure that taxpayers continue to receive a first class policing service that protects the public from harm and still delivers a service that is value for money.

These are my thoughts, but I want to hear your views on the amount you pay for policing in Hertfordshire. I need your views and comments to help me determine whether this is the right decision or not for Hertfordshire. This is your chance to have a say on the amount you pay for policing across Hertfordshire.

If you would like to give comments, please send them to your.views@herts.pcc.pnn.gov.uk or by letter to the Police and Crime Commissioner for Hertfordshire, 15 Vaughan Road, Harpenden, Hertfordshire, AL5 4GZ by January 7.

David Lloyd

Police and Crime Commissioner for Hertfordshire