Avon and Somerset PCC: Candidates debate council tax freeze

Police elections radio debate
Image caption The candidates discussed council tax police precepts in a radio debate

Four candidates running for the Avon and Somerset police commissioner have debated over whether to freeze the police share of the council tax bill.

About £40m of cuts have to be made by 2014, which have already been put in place by the outgoing police authority.

Two of the candidates, Labour John Savage and Independent Sue Mounstevens pledged to freeze the police precepts.

Conservative Ken Maddock and Lib Dem Pete Levy said any rise would depend on the police budget settlement.

Mr Levy said: "We need to get there and find out what residents want - and ask them if that's [tax rise] what they want.

"As members of the police authority for the past three years we have spoken to some residents who have said 'if it means I can keep my PCSO, then I will pay more money'.

"If you can justify then yes - it would depend on what the budget is when we come in on the 22 November."

'Tough one'

Mr Levy was a member of the Avon and Somerset Police Authority but stood down in order to stand in the election.

Labour candidate John Savage said: "I would freeze it, people are suffering badly in this economic crisis and adding to it? I would like to find other sources.

"I think it's dangerous, it's not fair when councils are having to freeze their tax, and having to unbalance that."

This view was shared by Conservative Ken Maddock and Independent Sue Mountstevens.

Mr Maddock said: "It's a tough one to give a straight answer because you're asking us to 'right' the budget and we cannot do that in detail today.

"My instinct is that people have had quite enough grief and quite enough increased bills for this to be the last straw.

'Voice of people'

"All I can say is have a look at my record, I've frozen council tax at Somerset County Council for the last three years for the entire duration of my leadership."

Sue Mountstevens, who is standing as an independent, was also a member of the police authority but stood down in order to take part in the elections.

She said: "I voted for a freeze for the last two year, and I would freeze it for this year.

"We are being offered a 1% grant if we go for a freeze and therefore that is what I would take, so there would be no increase in the council tax precept.

"I'll have a mandate and I will be the voice of the people and I don't think the residents can afford it."

The police and crime commissioner elections take place on 15 November.