Pricey police budget under review

Ward 6 Councillor Branscombe believes LPS could manage with less

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

With the London Police Service’s budget up for review, London City Council has an important decision on its hands.

The choice between the highly valued police force, and the tax hikes necessary for its improvement, is a divisive issue amongst council members.

As it stands, the London Police Service’s $74 million budget will receive an extra $4 million, which increases local taxes one per cent.

According to Controller Bud Polhill, council should spare no expense when it comes to the safety of the community.

“People say the police budget is too high until they need a police officer,” Polhill said. “When you do need one, you’re willing to pay.”

With a final vote of 11 to nine, some other council members, such as Ward 6 Councillor Nancy Branscombe, feel the police are asking for too much.

Branscombe, who represents the ward in which Western is located, said the police budget has been rising every year and she believes the officers could manage with less.

“The problem is that their budget increases are growing exponentially,” Branscombe explained.

“It just means that over time, there will be less and less money for other things. I believe the police are doing a great job, but at some point we need to change the system because we cannot continue this consistent [budget] increase.”

LPS Chief Murray Faulkner explained the necessity of the tax hike: “Most of the increase will go towards salary and benefits of my current staff, since there are no new bodies added to the force this year.”

But Branscombe said some of her constituents have already complained.

“We want the police to do their best work, but we need to balance that with what the taxpayers are willing to pay,” she said.

Faulkner said he sensed a feeling of frustration towards him at the council meeting, but explained London is not unique in its rising police budget.

“Policing across the province is the same. No one in this province has a personnel budget that isn’t a major expense,” he explained.

Council will decide on the final budget on Thursday, Feb. 21.

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