POLICE and Crime Commissioner Martyn Underhill has defended his decision to raise the police precept after criticism.

As reported in Monday’s Daily Echo, members of Dorset’s Crime and Police Panel vented their frustrations after failing to block plans to increase the precept by 1.96 per cent.

Nine members of the panel rejected Mr Underhill’s proposals, while seven supported them.

But under the regulations governing the panel, a veto must be supported by two-thirds of panel members, and so the increase was approved.

Bournemouth Cllr David Smith, a member of the panel, emailed MPs asking them to press for a change in the law following the decision, telling the Echo: “We live in a democratic society and the majority should rule.”

But Mr Underhill has fought back against the critics, and said: “I stand by my decision as I am deeply involved and informed on the issues and I am of the firm belief that it is in the best interest of Dorset over the medium term.

“Importantly, I have been consulting for months on these proposals and 74 per cent of respondents support them.

“That response was an essential element of my consideration. Unfortunately I feel that many of the Panel members yesterday arrived having made their minds up due to external pressures and parochial political influences.”

After the meeting, Mr Underhill was asked questions by the Echo, and decided to make his answers public in a blog on the PCC website.

“I have always said that the Police and Crime Panel should consist of members of the public directly elected to the panel at the same time as the local elections, to hold the PCC to account.

“This would prevent this kind of local party political agenda swaying decisions,” he said.

He said the decision was made democratically, adding: “I was democratically elected to oversee policing and crime in Dorset.

“A key responsibility of this post is to decide on the precept tax level that is in the best interest of residents and Dorset Police over the medium term.

“I am determined to hand over a debt free and efficient police force to my successor. I owe that to Dorset.”