What price a bobby on the beat? 50p on rents rise

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The Independent Online
It was a question that everyone on the estate was asking: why should we pay twice for our police force?

The debate had been sparked by a proposal from Bradford city council to add 50p a week to rents to ensure police officers patrol their estate. One woman said: "If there is trouble then the police should be here whether we pay an extra 50p or not. I already pay for the police with a share of my council tax. I don't see why I should pay again."

The argument is often repeated in the community centre on the pre-war Ravenscliffe housing estate which is troubled by drug-taking, burglaries and vandalism.

"We resent the idea too that only council tenants on the estate, and not those who own their council house, should have to pay extra," said Pat Hussain, 55, who has been a council tenant for almost 40 years.

"We would be subsidising house owners, who are probably better able to pay the extra than those who rent their houses, it's just not on." Her friend and neighbour Helen Venyite, 55, who now owns her three bedroom semi-detached council house agreed. "I wouldn't want to benefit at my friend's expense," she said. "We have our problems but we look out for each other and something like this won't do anything for community spirit.

"I really think the whole idea is offensive and really don't want any part of it. The empty houses on the estate, there must be at least 100, only make the problem of crime worse. The kids break into the empty houses and take what they can to sell. They use the houses for drugs and God knows what else. And the council is losing money too. An empty house means no rent or council tax and over time that has got to mount up."

The proposal follows a successful earlier experiment in which Bradford used money from the last government's City Challenge Fund to pay for two police officers dedicated to patrolling a housing estate in the Byerley area. The council now wants to repeat that success across the city and has been consulting tenants on how it can be achieved, suggesting 50p a week as a service charge. Full consultations have yet to be carried out with West Yorkshire police although some local talks have gone on.

Audrey Rastrick, who has launched a city-wide campaign opposing the charge described the idea as stupid. "I don't believe it could have been thought through properly," she said.

"It's suggested that the extra 50p should be voluntary but how can you finance a scheme like this in such a way? It's ridiculous. The whole idea is a very dangerous precedent. The next thing you know they will be talking about extra payment for ambulance and fire services."

The commander of the local police division, Superintendent Michael Baxter, said any additional investment was welcome because it would enable them to concentrate efforts in particular areas without taking away support from elsewhere.

The city's housing chairman, Barry Midwood, emphasised that the council was only asking tenants their views. "If tenants themselves take the view that it is viable, then we shall take the matter to the police."