FIGHTING ON: Kevin Hurley, right, has vowed to fight police cuts despite public criticism from Communities secretary Eric Pickles, left
ACCUSATION: Communities Secretary Eric Pickles Photo by Chris Rushton
COMMUNITIES secretary Eric Pickles has accused Surrey’s Police and Crime Commissioner of using public cash for political campaigning and taking the “lazy option” over abandoned plans to raise the police’s council tax precept by 24 per cent.
The attack, in a letter to Kevin Hurley published on the gov.uk website, followed the independent commissioner’s warning that Surrey will become an increasingly unsafe place to live as a result of cuts to frontline policing.
But responding to the claims, Mr Pickles said: “Increasing council tax is the lazy option. I would note that Surrey Police has a habit of trying to increase council tax, and was even capped by the last administration.
“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. Since 2010/11, it has risen to £212.
“The Surrey Police precept is now bigger than Surrey’s district council precepts.
“Yet contrary to top-down Whitehall capping, the new regime of a local referendum leaves the final decision in the hands of local taxpayers.
“As far as I am aware, when you ran for election as Police and Crime Commissioner, you made absolutely no mention of your plans for big hikes in council tax.
“I would suggest you have a weak democratic mandate on this issue, given your shyness on tax hikes before you asked people to vote for you.”
This week Mr Hurley called the letter, which he claims has not been received by his office, a “politically motivated and inaccurate” attack and accused Mr Pickles of “bullying tactics”.
He said: “I was surprised to read this politically leading and very inaccurate letter from the Secretary of State but it follows the norm for a professional politician in that he’s played the man and not the policy, which is why is his government forcing us to reduce by 500 staff?
“He says Surrey Police increased council tax but it was the Surrey Police Authority, which was at the time a Conservative-controlled authority.
“This is a personal attack on me by the Secretary of State because he doesn’t like me arguing with him or questioning him.”
Mr Hurley said he will continue to warn Surrey people about risks faced by reductions in police funding and has not ruled out a possible council tax hike next year.