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Panel hits out over Sussex Police draft budget
Members of the panel which is supposed to hold the new Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner to account say they are powerless to scrutinise her decisions.
Councillors sitting on the Sussex Police and Crime Panel spoke out after Katy Bourne’s proposal to freeze the police’s share of council tax was voted through on Friday.
They criticised the single sheet of A4 which set out the “draft revenue budget” for the next financial year.
When Sussex Police Authority – the panel of councillors which was replaced by the police and crime commissioner in November – considered the precept for the current year it was provided with a 41-page report.
Her office said it has not yet received the Government’s final grant figures, so could not issue a detailed budget and the full budget would be published later.
This comes as Mrs Bourne is also facing criticism for failing to come up with a plan to put a special constable in every village.
The promise was a key pledge in Katy Bourne’s election manifesto, but critics claim a draft plan for 2013/2014 does not say how it will be achieved.
However Mrs Bourne said she planned to increase the number of specials over her full term of office.
At a meeting at County Hall, Lewes on Friday morning, Mrs Bourne’s proposal to freeze the police’s proportion of council tax at £138.42 for a Band D property was voted through.
By freezing that precept, the force will qualify for a Government grant of the equivalent of a 1% rise After the meeting councillors complained that the panel had not done its job properly because it did not have enough information.
Liberal Democrat councillor Andrew Smith, who represents West Sussex County Council on the panel, wrote on his blog: “Despite the targets section of the Police and Crime Plan being blank, the absence of any information on the reserves and balances, the absence of any medium term financial plan and no capital programme, the panel approved both the plan and nil increase in the precept.”
He added: “Clearly, this panel is not capable of subjecting the commissioner (who remains a district councillor for Mid Sussex) to any effective scrutiny. Let’s hope the fourth estate steps up to the mark.”
No budget information
“We were given one side of A4 about the budget.”
But Conservative David Elkin, representing East Sussex County Council, said he agreed the budget outline was a bit lightweight but added: “I think we had the opportunity to question as rigorously as we wanted.”
A spokeswoman for the commissioner’s office said: “The panel only has the role or duty to approve the precept, but not the budget.
“We are not able to put the final settlement figures in yet because we do not have the final settlement.
“We will be publishing the full budget on our website.”
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