JOHN Merry (HAS, Mar 15) raises concerns about the increase in policing precept this year.

I share those concerns and I have been extremely reluctant to increase the precept – in fact, I only did so after extensive consultation in public meetings, in the press, and on-line.

Around 78 per cent of consultees were prepared to support the increase of 13.24 per cent. Indeed, such increases are necessary because the Government refuses to fund policing adequately and insists on shifting the onus onto local taxpayers.

For example, since 2010 the Government grant for Durham Constabulary has been reduced in real terms by 32 per cent and this has inevitably led to a reduction of around 400 police officer numbers in Durham and Darlington.

I have only been able to maintain numbers in 2019-20 by increasing the precept by the maximum allowed by the Government.

I would add that Durham Constabulary has been rated as the most efficient force in the country for the past three years, and continues to look for innovative ways to make the best use of your money.

Mr Merry also raises concerns about the cost of my office. I keep this under constant review and I can reassure him that the cost is still 20 per cent lower than in the days of the police authority in 2012, while our engagement in the community is significantly greater.

Ron Hogg, Police, Crime and Victims’ Commissioner, Durham