Merseyside Police Authority budget decision is delayed

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A decision over whether to increase council tax or cut police numbers has been put on hold by Merseyside Police Authority.

Members could not reach a majority decision when they met to set the budget for 2012/13 on Thursday.

They were faced with a choice of either cutting a further 40 officers or increasing the police council tax precept by about 32p a month.

The authority will meet again at a later date to make a final decision.

Chairperson Bill Weightman said: "The dilemma we are faced with is that by freezing the policing element of the council tax and accepting a one-off Council Tax Freeze Grant from the government of £1.8m, we leave ourselves with a £2m gap in the budget from 2013 onwards.

"We recognise that the Merseyside community are facing increasing financial pressures and we would like to reassure them we are doing everything we can to find the most prudent route forward whilst protecting the frontline services as far as possible".

Merseyside Police Chief Constable Jon Murphy had urged members to increase council tax.

He said: "Accepting the freeze and grant would leave an underlying deficit, which the force would have to deal with in future years and and this would be highly likely to impact further on officer numbers and frontline delivery."

Merseyside Police is set to lose more than 250 officers over the next two years as part of cost-cutting plans.

The force has to save more than £61m over the next four years due to reduced government funding.

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