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Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham proposes freeze on Mayor’s council tax precept

  • Mayor sets out proposal to freeze Mayor’s council tax precept for 2024/25
  • Central government grant for GMP is insufficient to meet level of improvement required
  • Small proposed increase in Fire precept to support first additional fire pumps for city-region for 15 years
  • Move follows concerns raised by public during the recent Fire Cover Review and need to increase cover overall to prevent reductions in some communities

Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham has set out his proposal to freeze the Mayor’s council tax precept for the financial year 2024/25 to ease ongoing cost-of-living pressures on residents.

The Mayor has also announced proposals for further investment in Greater Manchester’s emergency services which, if agreed, will see more frontline police officers and more fire engines on our streets in the coming year. These proposals are recommendations for the Police, Fire and Crime Panel and the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) to consider at the end of the month. Final recommendations across all budgets will be considered for approval by the special budget GMCA on 9 February.

Keeping communities in the city-region safe is the Mayor’s top priority and this requires investment in the police and fire and rescue services to help them continue to improve and give them the resources they need.

However, due to below inflation government grants to the services, in order to fund the improvements, it means local council taxpayers are being asked to pay more.

Aware of the cost-of-living crisis, the Mayor has chosen not to increase the Mayor’s precept.  The Mayor’s precept is part of the overall council tax paid by Greater Manchester residents and is used to fund Greater Manchester-wide services for which the Mayor is responsible.

Police precept

The Mayor is statutorily required to consult the public on the Police precept and the consultation opens today. The consultation proposes further improvements and investment in Greater Manchester Police (GMP), including more frontline police officers, faster response times, more arrests, more prosecutions, and improved neighbourhood and public transport network policing to keep communities safe.

The precept is the police element of council tax and in Greater Manchester it remains one of the lowest in the country. The consultation proposes an increase of £10.11 for a Band B property. The majority of properties in Greater Manchester fall within Band A and B. This amounts to an extra 84 pence a month for a Band B property. The Police precept for a Band B property will go up from £189.23 to £199.34.

The proposed increase, along with the central government policing grant, will enable GMP to:

  • Continue to progress as the fastest improving force in the country.
  • Remain one of the best police forces in the country in answering 999 and 101 calls.
  • Further improve response times for emergency and non-emergency incidents.
  • Retain investment in neighbourhood policing and crime prevention teams to further reduce neighbourhood crimes.
  • Invest a further 30 police officers into front line policing roles in 2024/25.
  • Increase policing of the transport network through the launch of Operation Vulcan with increased policing presence in and around Piccadilly and Victoria stations.
  • Invest in locking up more criminals and providing swifter and better services for victims and witnesses through investment in investigations and criminal justice units.
  • Invest in prosecuting offenders with a focus on increasing arrests for sex offenders and ensuring justice for vulnerable victims.

Three-quarters of police funding comes from a central government grant and a quarter from what can be raised locally from the Police precept. Central government funding has provided a 1.5 percent below inflation policing grant in real terms to Greater Manchester for the coming year.

Between 2011 and 2019, the grant provided to GMP was cut in real terms by £215 million, which resulted in 2,000 fewer police officers and 1,000 fewer staff. Despite an increase of 1,622 new police officers since 2019, which local council taxpayers have helped fund, we are still yet to restore officer and staff numbers to where they were in 2010.

With the help of what was raised through the precept in the current financial year, Chief Constable Stephen Watson has brought about significant improvements in policing. This has been recognised in GMP’s recent inspection by His Majesty’s Inspectorate for Police and Fire (HMICFRS) which demonstrates that GMP is now the most improved police force in the country. HMICFRS report also states that GMP ‘provides value for money and can show continuous improvement, efficiency savings’ and ‘improved productivity and it makes the best use of the finance it has available, and its plans are both ambitious and sustainable’.

As well as increasing police officer numbers, the 2023/24 Police precept allowed us to invest in and achieve:

  • Improved 999 and 101 call answering times. In November GMP were first out of 43 police forces nationally for speed of answer for 999 calls – answering 999 calls in an average of just 2 seconds.
  • Increased resources to front line policing resulting in GMP responding to 86 percent of emergency (Grade 1) incidents within the national target of 15 minutes, compared to 79 percent last year.
  • Dedicated Neighbourhood Crime Teams and Prevention Hubs on each district which have reduced recorded neighbourhood crime levels by nearly 12 percent and residential burglary by a quarter. Solved rates have improved significantly across all crime types. GMP also launched a new Bee In the Loop community messaging system.
  • Increased specialist resources and investigators to detect neighbourhood crime and sex offending, including such offences against children. GMP has increased arrests for domestic abuse cases by 61 percent, almost doubled the number of arrests made for stalking and harassment and are solving 10 percent of rape cases, compared to 6.7 percent last year.
  • Targeted operations, such as Operation Vulcan in Cheetham Hill and Strangeways and in Piccadilly Gardens to tackle organised criminality, as well as Operation Avro on each district and the roads and transport system to crack down on offences. As part of Operation Vulcan in Cheetham Hill and Strangeways alone, GMP seized 1,000 tonnes of counterfeit items which have been repurposed and recycled, and £520,000 in cash, and violent crime and public order offences halved.

Despite these considerable improvements, there is more to be done. The proposed increase in the Police precept is needed to help close the funding gap and provide the services communities expect from their local force to fight crime, reduce crime and secure justice for victims.

The public can respond to the police precept consultation at from 4 January 2024.

The final precept is scrutinised by the Greater Manchester Police, Fire and Crime Panel which is made up of councillors from each of the 10 councils and is chaired by a councillor.

Fire precept

In the last few years under Chief Fire Officer, Dave Russel, Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) has been transformed in terms of leadership and culture, significantly improved training, preparedness, and capability for responding to terrorist attacks and mass casualty incidents. It was recently awarded ‘Emergency Service of the Year’ at the 2023 FIRE Magazine Excellence in Fire and Emergency Awards.  

GMFRS currently has the third lowest precept funding its service in the country, but without an increase to the precept in 2024/25, it will suffer a budget gap due to inflationary pressures and without being able to make any investments to improve its service. The Mayor has pledged to maintain firefighter numbers above 2017 figures and to not reduce the number of fire engines below 50, a commitment he has maintained so far despite some budgetary pressures over the years.

This is why the Mayor will set out his proposals to invest in GMFRS with a £3.89 precept increase on a Band B property, leading to more prevention, more protection and better emergency response. This will cover inflation and fund a new fire engine, taking the fleet up from 50 pumps in 2017 to 52 – one fire engine is already being introduced in response to the recent GMFRS Fire Cover Review. There will also be an investment of up to £1 million in prevention and protection work across Greater Manchester to reduce fire and rescue incidents.

If approved at a meeting of the GMCA at the end of the month, the Fire precept will increase from £59.27 to £63.16 for a Band B property in 2024/25. Final recommendations across all budgets will be considered for approval by the special budget GMCA on 9 February.

 Mayor’s precept

The Mayor will set out his proposal to freeze this for 2024/25 to the GMCA at the end of the month with final recommendations across all budgets being considered for approval by the special budget GMCA on 9 February. If approved, the Mayor’s precept will be frozen at £31.75 for a Band D property and £24.69 for a Band B.

Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, said: “I am proposing to freeze the Mayor’s precept for the coming financial year, recognising people are still under pressure with the cost of living. We need to think very carefully before we ask people for more money. 

“I am really proud of the work of our emergency services in Greater Manchester, but they need more support to help them continue to improve.

“It is unfortunate that we haven’t received the funding package we needed from central government which doesn’t fully cover inflation. This has left me with no choice but to propose an increase to the Police and Fire precepts, but I don’t want to further add to the local tax burden which is why I am proposing to freeze the Mayor’s precept.

“I have seen first-hand the significant improvements GMP have made over the last year, culminating in an overall positive HMICFRC inspection. GMP call answering is the fastest in the country, officers are providing a much improved response to emergency incidents, neighbourhood crime is falling and there have been big successes in disrupting organised crime.

“However, we are still on the journey to make GMP the best force in the country and combined with real terms cut in the national policing grant, I am compelled to ask our local council taxpayers to pay a modest increase to help GMP continue to provide the service our communities deserve to keep them safe. I want us to have a police force that everyone can be proud of that is victim-centred and reduces crime.

“Similarly, with GMFRS, there have been huge improvements in recent years, but we want to go further and invest in more fire engines and protection and prevention work to keep our communities safe.”

Deputy Mayor for Policing, Crime, Fire and Criminal Justice, Kate Green, said: “I’m delighted with the improvements we’ve seen in recent years in GMP and GMFRS and that communities can see what a difference strong leadership, prioritising things that matter to people and investing in frontline services has made.

“We are not complacent, and we recognise that more needs to be done so it is vital that we continue to invest in the areas that are important to our communities by doing more in neighbourhood and public transport policing, responding to incidents quicker and arresting and prosecuting more offenders as well as recruiting more frontline officers, purchasing more fire engines and protecting people from fire incidents.”

Article Published: 04/01/2024 17:29 PM