This blog is mainly about the governance and future of policing and crime services. (Police & Crime Commissioners feature quite a lot.) But there are also posts about the wider justice system. And because I am town councillor and political activist, local & national issues are covered a little, as well.

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Spare Special Subsidy

Following the successful and remarkable introduction of Police & Crime Commissioners, the Home Secretary announced a new policy today: the “Spare Special Subsidy” (although opponents are already calling this the #Bobbytax).

From today any household, where there is no one who has volunteered to become a special police constable, will be subject to a premium on that part of their council tax which pays for policing in their area. Typical premiums will amount to between 14% and 25% of what they currently pay.

Theresa May said in announcing the new move “In setting the council tax precept for police services, most Police & Crime Commissioners have made the presumption that at least one person from every household will volunteer to become a special police constable. Due to the mess made by the last Labour Government of the country’s finances, we can no longer afford enough paid police officers to keep our streets safe. Therefore we have introduced this financial incentive (a little ‘nudge’ in the ribs, if you like) encouraging people to become special police officers.”

“We do understand that some households may find this opportunity more difficult than others to make the most of: especially single parents, older people living alone and, of course, those unfortunate disabled and handicapped people. However these people will be able to ‘offset’ their ‘spare special subsidy’ by persuading a member of their wider family to volunteer on their behalf. And if they have no family, the state will be able to pair them with a person claiming job seekers allowance. After all, we know that ‘volunteering makes you free’ as our luminous leader has said in his Big Society manifesto.” the Home Secretary went on.

Opponents of the scheme have pointed out that this policy is yet another example of the Government making things up as they go along. “It is inherently discriminatory towards people who have criminal records since they will not be able to apply to join the special police constabulary and will be forced to pay the Bobbytax” said one protestor, chained to the railings outside Pentonville prison. (He was later arrested and put back inside Pentonville.)

Other commentators have questioned whether the police service is quite ready for such an influx of new recruits to the special constabulary. “We haven’t got enough uniforms and working radios for the paid officers let alone for a few thousand rooky specials. It’s a nightmare!” said one unnamed Chief Constable.

ACPO have issued a press release saying that they welcome this move towards a more professional police service where volunteer police officers play their full part in building a safer England and Wales, more at ease with itself.

The Police Federation were speechless, for once.

Another Chief Constable said that he was looking forward to the long cold summer and expected these new specials to be deployed extensively to policing the #Bedroomtax riots which the new Strategic Policing Requirement has flagged up as a significant and likely risk.

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