Posted: 20.01.21 at 15:59 by The Editor
A Deepings councillor is pushing for a council tax discount to be given to unpaid Special Constables in South Kesteven.
Coun Phil Dilks has submitted a motion so all 56 district councillors can debate the idea at a meeting of the 'full' council next week.
Earlier this month, the Cabinet of the Conservative-run council rejected such a concession despite such a move being supported by Lincolnshire's Police and Crime Commissioner Marc Jones, and the County Council, who are both Conservative.
Former policeman and Grantham district and county councillor Ray Wootten, a Conservative, hopes South Kesteven District Council will change its mind.
Coun Dilks (Ind- Deeping St James) said: “It smacks of hypocrisy for the Cabinet to deny Special Constables a relatively small thank you for their unpaid service.
"If all 22 Specials living in South Kesteven claimed the concession, the total cost to SKDC would be just £825 a year – that’s a tiny fraction of the £133,487 a year members of Cabinet collect between them for their ‘voluntary’ work as district councillors.
“Last month (Dec 1st), in the middle of a pandemic, the same members of Cabinet authorised spending up to £100,000 of public money to underwrite an event to mark the unveiling of the Margaret Thatcher statue in Grantham.
“Voting to blow £100,000 on a party, yet refusing to find £825 to help Special Constables shows how out of touch with reality the Cabinet are - and begs the question ‘what planet are they on…?’
“As numbers of paid police officers in Lincolnshire have been slashed over the past decade, Special Constables play an increasingly vital role in fighting crime and keeping us safe.
“Across Lincolnshire they are on duty for an average of 29 hours a month without any pay: the PCC is asking us to offer them a limited reduction of up to 25 per cent off council tax bills. The bulk of the cost of the plan would be picked up by Lincolnshire Police and Lincolnshire County Council who support the idea.
But at their January 12 meeting, the cabinet rejected the PCC's suggestion, with members feeling the concession might open the floodgates to NHS workers and various volunteers.
Cllr Dilks said: “Just because we can’t do everything, doesn’t justify doing nothing. Besides, NHS workers get a wage, albeit it not enough! And while voluntary work in many fields is highly valued, Specials are a formal part of our 999 emergency services.
“Specials wear the same uniform and have the same powers as regular officers. They really are special and I believe we should take all reasonable steps to thank them and hopefully encourage them to keep serving us.”
Coun Ray Wootten told Nub News: "Having served as a Police Officer in Bedfordshire I was regularly joined on patrol by members of the Special Constabulary.
"The Specials that I knew served unsocial hours and you could always rely on them in a difficult situation and looked forward to working with them. They did so to serve the community not for financial gain.
"Clearly, I support any initiative that encourages people to join the force and supported the Police Commissioner Marc Jones proposal by speaking in favour at the Cabinet meeting. Regrettably this was not supported."
Coun Wootten continued: "I believe that a view expressed by the Chief Constable of Devon & Cornwall Police to use Specials as a paid reserve in a way similar to the Army reserve which would provide additional resource in a time of need is one that I would welcome.
"In West Midlands Police those Specials who worked extra hours during the pandemics were paid £150. The first time they have been given a payment for their commitment.
"Members of the Special Constabulary in Lincolnshire in the last year contributed 49,000 hours averaging 29 hours a week carrying out a valuable service to our Community."
The motion on the agenda of South Kesteven District Council’s meeting on Thursday, 28th January is as follows:
Cllr Dilks to propose: That this Council:
VALUES the vital role that unpaid Special Constables play in protecting residents of South Kesteven as part of our 999 emergency services.
RECOGNISES that across Lincolnshire including South Kesteven, Special Constables are on police duty without any pay for an average of 29 hours a month.
WELCOMES the request made by Lincolnshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner to this Council to allow a concession to Special Constables of up to 25 per cent of council tax liability.
NOTES that should all 22 Special Constables who currently live in South Kesteven claim as outlined, the forecast cost of this Council’s share of the concession would be a TOTAL MAXIMUM of £825 in the coming financial year (2021/22).
RESOLVES to adopt the concession as requested by the PCC at the earliest possible opportunity.