THE county’s police and crime panel has exercised its formal powers by rejecting proposals for an increase in the police council tax precept.

The proposal for a 1.99 per cent hike was made by commissioner, Richard Rhodes, but was vetoed amid fears it could have led to a local referendum if government rules surrounding council tax rises change.

“This is a decision that the panel would rather not have made,” said Councillor Celia Tibble, chair of the group.

“The panel and the commissioner have been put in an impossible position by central government.

“It is very disappointing that so late in the financial year there is still not clarity about the council tax increase limit.

“The commissioner can only propose a budget, and the panel can only make a judgement about the appropriateness of that budget, when the financial bottom line is actually clear.”

A spokesman for the office of the police and crime commissioner said there is uncertainty about the size of increase that can be proposed before a local referendum is triggered.

There is speculation that the limit could reduce to 1.5 per cent, significantly below the current two per cent increase limit.

But panel members felt that they could not approve the proposals, given that the situation could ‘change significantly’ in the near future.

“There will be other Police and Crime Panels across the country wrestling with this issue and I hope that government takes note and moves quickly provide the clarity that is needed for us to do our job properly,” added Coun Tibble.

All nine panel members in attendance voted in favour of the veto proposal.

In addition the panel noted concerns about a lack of detail in aspects of the commissioner’s budget plans.

“I am disappointed but understand the reasons why the police and crime panel felt that they had no option other than to veto the proposed increase in the policing part of the council tax precept,” said Mr Rhodes.

“Only yesterday I made the point to policing minister Damian Green MP that we urgently need the advice from government of the level of council tax increase that would not need to be supported by a referendum.

“This level is normally provided with the settlement figure in December each year.”

He will present a revised precept proposal to the panel by February 15, for consideration before February 22.

The new precept proposal must by lower than the 1.99% increase proposed today.