MEMBERS' QUESTIONS TO DESIGNATED SPOKESPERSONS
To put questions, if any, to the designated Members on the discharge of functions of the South Yorkshire Police and Crime Panel, South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Authority, Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield Combined Authority and South Yorkshire Pensions Authority, in accordance with Council Procedure Rule 11(5).
(1) Councillor Cowles referred to a recent article in the local paper by the Police and Crime Commissioner, in his bleeding-heart comment about how sorry he was to impose a further tax increase on hard working people. He said he would first need to consult; but did not say with whom. Since it was not Joe Public, with whom did he consult?
Councillor Sansome explained the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) had a statutory duty to consult with the public and with rate payers to obtain their views before the precept was set and, although Councillor Cowles obviously missed it, that was what he had done.
This year a pre-consultation on policing priorities and willingness to pay more in their Council Tax was undertaken during the autumn. Then, on 19th December, 2020, the PCC launched the formal statutory consultation around the setting of the precept.
During the 4 week period the survey was promoted heavily across the OPCC social media channels (Twitter and Facebook) and was supported by South Yorkshire Police social media accounts – both corporate and neighbourhood accounts – as well as on social media accounts of partners. The survey was circulated twice via SYP Alerts to in excess of 30,000 residents who have signed up to receive the service via email. It was also supported by a press release and articles within the local media.
A total of 2,160 responses were received and the results show that 67% of respondents were supportive of the maximum £15 (Band D property) increase, which was 19p per week.
In a supplementary question Councillor Cowles asked when the PCC wrote articles why did he not make this clear and then residents would not need to ask. The point being was why did the PCC want an increase when people have suffered in the way they have. Even in his Ward Councillor Cowles was aware of many self-employed people who were increasingly upset about this approach and suggested that any increase in Council Tax for this should be matched with increases in productivity. He asked, therefore, would Councillor Sansome go back to the PCC and make that recommendation to him.
Councillor Sansome was concerned that residents were raising their concerns with Councillor Cowles. During his time on the Police and Crime Panel there had been no questions from the public to the PCC from the Sitwell Ward. Councillor Sansome struggled to understand the correlation.
In terms of performance of the PCC, this was measured and considered by Police and Crime Panel; a Panel which Councillor Cowles was nominated to and did not take up the seat, yet continued to write letters to the local press.