Yesterday, Matthew Grove, Humberside's Police and Crime Commissioner, announced he intends to freeze the police precept for 2013-14. Good news, especially as last year the precept was hiked by 4 per cent, and in the last decade it has gone up by over 80 per cent. Hopefully next year there will be room for reductions as Mr Grove gets his feet under the table and really looks closely at all spending by Humberside Police.
It's not all good news for Mr Grove though. A couple of weeks' ago, I wrote about his draft police and crime plan, which I described as being filled with public sector buzzwords and gobbledegook. It wasn't just me who thought this as the plan has the dubious honour of being nominated for a 'Golden Bull' award from the Plain English Campaign! Not a great start.
The bad news is it looks like Hull City Council is set to reject the Government's offer of a grant and increase Council Tax by 1.95 per cent. Some councillors had wanted an increase of around 3 per cent, however as this would have triggered a local referendum, it was dismissed by deputy leader, Daren Hale, as being too expensive.
On a related issue, I have written extensively about the battle the council leadership is having with UNISON. In our report on mileage rates, published nearly two years' ago, we revealed that Hull City Council paid many of its employees 65p per mile - 20p more than HMRC's recommended rate of 45p. The council leader, Steve Brady, has been promising for well over a year to end this perk, and yet we are still waiting. Last October, I commented how the unions were flexing their muscles, and this week UNISON was at it again.
Speaking to the Hull Daily Mail, Adrian Kennett, UNISON's branch secretary at the council, said:
These are not perks. These are terms and conditions that have been negotiated over decades. Prior to the financial crisis, no Labour leader in the city had referred to them as generous or a perk.
The changes he is referring to would save the council £7 million a year and could also save 400 jobs. Instead of working with the council, Mr Kennett prefers to defend the indefensible. We live in tough times, and mileage rates of 65p per mile cannot be described as anything but a perk. As we approach the budget-setting full council meeting, which takes place at the end of this month, it will be interesting to see if the unions back down, or attempt to send the council over a cliff.