Special constables could see their council tax bills halved

Date published: 08 February 2019

Special constables could see their council tax bills halved as part of a bid to increase the numbers of police on Rochdale’s streets.

Council officers are expected to sign off a 50% discount, around £750 per property, for unpaid volunteer police officers who live and serve in the borough.

A report to cabinet members recommends they approve the policy, which is expected to cost the council in the region of £10,000 per year, when they meet on Monday.

It describes special constables as ‘a vital part of the police service’ who help to prevent crime and build up relationships with the diverse communities they serve.

Setting out the reason for recommending the concession, the report adds: ‘In the spirit of working in partnership and rewarding those who give up their time on a voluntary basis, the council is seeking to offer an incentive to help the recruitment and retention of special constables by awarding them a council tax discount.

‘Introducing a discount for special constables who meet the scheme criteria, would provide an incentive for those people who want to serve the communities that they reside in. This will foster an ownership of communities and help grow the ‘Big Society’ idea.’

Back in 2011, Greater Manchester Police Authority recommended that all 10 of the city region’s boroughs should introduce a council tax discount for special constables.

To date, the only Greater Manchester authority to have adopted such as scheme is Trafford, where this is understood to have contributed to a ‘substantial reduction’ in crime and anti-social behaviour.

Rochdale Council Leader Allen Brett believes it is now time his borough followed suit.

He said: “Trafford has done it first and so now we are joining the initiative to see if we can get more special constables in Rochdale.

“It’s another little thing to try and help certain people in public service.”

Councillor Brett, said he understood Greater Manchester Police were keen to increase the number of special constables, as they often go on to join the force full time.

And he is unperturbed by the reports’ reference to ‘The Big Society’, a philosophy promoted by further Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron, which critics say fills jobs that should be done by paid professionals with volunteers.

Councillor Brett said: “I’m in favour of any idea that brings better services to Rochdale.

“No matter what we do there will always be people who criticise, but this seems to be something everyone is in favour of, I’ve had no lobbying against, only in favour.”

However, councillors have been warned that the move could lead to other voluntary workers feeling they should also benefit from similar tax breaks.

Councillor Brett said he did not anticipate this becoming an issue, but would be prepared to listen should groups come forward in future.

Conservative Councillor John Taylor, a retired chief inspector who served GMP for three decades, is also backing the scheme.

Councillor Taylor said: “Special constables give up their time for free, they go and police the streets through their sense of community support and wellbeing, they give up their free time, if you encourage people to come forward, that can only be a good thing.”

And on the possibility of other volunteers in the community feeling they should also qualify for financial help from the council he said: “I think it’s something that could be looked at for people who give up their time to serve and help the community, why not?”

Nick Statham, Local Democracy Reporter

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