SOME members of Dorset’s Police and Crime Panel have vented their frustrations after they failed to block plans to increase the police precept.
Nine members of the panel rejected Police and Crime Commissioner Martyn Underhill’s plans for a 1.96 per cent increase, while seven members supported them.
But, under the regulations governing all Police and Crime Panels, 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, has emailed the borough’s MPs, asking them to press Whitehall for a change in the law.
“The majority of the committee didn’t support him but it was acceptable in legal terms. We live in a democratic society and the majority should rule,” he said.
He said he now had doubts whether serving on the Police and Crime Panel was worthwhile and added: “We’re fairly toothless as far as I can see.
“If we can’t influence something like this, it makes you wonder whether it’s worth doing.”
East Dorset Cllr Malcolm Birr, who also voted against, said: “It is a strange one, especially when you’re used to democratic voting on a council committee where if you get a majority that’s it.
“I was disappointed. This is not good news for council taxpayers. We did our job but at the end of the day you have to go along with what the legislation says.” But Christchurch Cllr Bernie Davis, another member who voted against, said he did not share Cllr Smith’s concerns. “They know what the situation is, it’s written into the act and it’s the same across the country,” he said. “It’s no different in Sussex, Surrey or wherever.”
Tobias Ellwood, MP for Bournemouth East, intends to raise the issue with Home Secretary Theresa May today. He said: “It’s against all principles of democratic accountability that precept increases can be introduced when the majority of the panel is against the decision.
“I have asked the PCC to justify pursuing the increase when the majority of the scrutiny panel was clearly against and have written to the Policing Minister asking for the voting procedures to be reviewed.”
Who voted for and against
Martyn Underhill’s recommendation to increase the police’s share of the council tax bill by 1.96 per cent was supported by Dorset County Councillors Fred Drane and Ian Gardner and Poole councillors Judy Butt and Phil Goodall.
Audrey Burch (North Dorset), Ali Patrick (Purbeck) and John Russell (West Dorset) also voted in favour.
Voting against were Bournemouth councillors David Smith, Dennis Gritt, John Adams and Malcolm Davies. Malcolm Birr (East Dorset), Bernie Davis (Christchurch) Geoff Petherick (Weymouth) and Independent co-opted members Iain McVie and Mike Short also voted against.