Eric Pickles criticises Surrey’s Police and Crime Commissioner over abandoned council tax plans

getSURREY

15:56, 28 March 2015 By Matt Strudwick

Kevin Hurley’s abandoned £13,000 campaign for a 24% rise in the police’s share of council tax has been labelled as money for ‘old rope’ by the Secretary of State

Eric Pickles

Cabinet minister Eric Pickles has slammed Surrey’s Police and Crime Commissioner for taking the ‘lazy option’ in wanting to increase the county’s council tax bills.

Kevin Hurley’s abandoned £13,000 campaign for a 24% rise in the police’s share of council tax has been labelled as money for ‘old rope’ by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.

In a letter addressed to Mr Hurley, dated March 25, speaking of the campaign, he wrote: “I do not believe it is a great use of taxpayers’ money by a supposedly cash-strapped body to be spending money on such glorified opinion polls.”

Mr Pickles also criticises Surrey Police’s ‘habit’ of continually trying to increase council tax, as well as Mr Hurley for having a ‘weak democratic mandate’ due to his ‘shyness on tax hikes before’.

“Increasing council tax is the lazy option,” Mr Pickles wrote.

“Surrey Police’s council tax rose from £45 on Band D bills in 1997-98 to £199 by 2010-11, a rise of 342 per cent. The Surrey Police precept is now bigger than Surrey’s district council precepts.”

His comments come as a response from a letter sent by Mr Hurley to Mr Pickles on February 26, where it is suggested Surrey’s Police and Crime Commissioner had complained he was unable to use taxpayers’ money for his referendum campaign.

Mr Pickles wrote: “Whilst you may have hit taxpayers with the cost of your political opinion polling, it is not acceptable for taxpayers to be forced to bankroll your political campaigning as well.”

Surrey Police Commissioner

But Mr Hurley has defended the campaign, saying it would have cost Surrey taxpayers almost £1.5million to hold a referendum.

“And that was the reason why I expended that money – to see what the public view was,” he said.

“When I saw it was unlikely that we would have won, I decided not to risk the million-and-a-half. What he is saying is misleading and, at worse, ignorant.”

He argued that the £1 a week increase for an average household – £50 more a year – would have provided financial support for the police force amidst cuts in Government funding, before settling on a 1.99% increase.

Mr Hurley said it was unfortunate that a professional party politician was using personal attacks on those that hold an alternative view.

“For that reason I’m pleased not to be a member of a major political party,” he said.

“What the Secretary of State is doing is deliberately obstructing the issue at hand. That is the government has cut its funding for Surrey Police by more than 45% over the next couple of years i.e. we will have 500 less staff to keep us safe.

“Sadly, the Secretary of State has, again, dodged the difficult question and it’s for that reason I’m pleased to be an independent. Whatever his reason for doing it, he doesn’t like being challenged by a local representative for public safety.”