NORTHUMBRIA’s police commissioner is to fight council bosses for an above-inflation tax rise.
Council leaders are privately furious that after three years of struggling to freeze council tax bills, Vera Baird has attempted to push through a 3.5% hike without consulting them.
The commissioner last night appeared to have alienated even her own Labour party supporters as council leaders prepared to turn down the region’s only tax rise since 2010, and what was described by one councillor as one of the largest increases in the country.
But the former solicitor general last night stood by her tax decisions, saying she did not take on the job in order to be popular with council colleagues.
And she issued a warning that not raising the tax could have drastic consequences on the force’s spending plans.
Many councillors said they only found out that the commissioner wanted to force up bills after Ms Baird had publicly announced the move.
In North Tyneside the elected Conservative mayor has said she has serious concerns about the move, while in Northumberland the Liberal Democrat council leader Jeff Reid was first informed of the tax move by The Journal.
In previous years a police authority made up of council representatives would agree together the force’s share of the council tax bill.
But Ms Baird’s apparent decision to announce without formal talks her first budget bill will now see members of her crime and policing panel potentially refusing to approve the rise.
Such a situation would force the commissioner to reconsider, meaning she faces a £1m gap in her budget.
The increase, worth around £3 a year for many households, was to be used to help preserve front line services. Ms Baird announced the move in a statement which included a message of support from chief constable Sue Sim.
Last night the Northumberland County Council boss said this showed the reality of politicising the police.