A RISE in council tax for Somerset residents will pay for 70 new police officers.

Avon and Somerset's Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), Sue Mountstevens, has confirmed a 5.88% increase in the policing precept - the part of our council tax payments that funds the service.

The rise equates to an increase of £13.39 per year for the average Band D household in Somerset.

PCC Mountstevens said the move would mean Avon and Somerset Police could now recruit the officers and 'enhance investigations capacity to improve outcomes for victims'.

“I know that any increase in household bills is felt by local people and, after this extraordinary year, this rise is an even bigger ask," she said.

"The pandemic has had a huge impact on our communities and has affected many people’s finances. The decision to raise the policing part of the council tax has not been taken lightly.

“I know it is a difficult decision but if the council tax was not increased, Avon and Somerset Police would have to make significant cuts and their services to local people would be significantly reduced.

“It is vital to balance the challenges facing policing, the increased threat from criminality, local people’s views and the safety of residents. Through my consultation I heard from over 3,500 local people and the majority supported an increase to support policing."

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about your council tax - and how much you'll pay from April

Previously, a proposed 6.6% increase was blocked by the Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Panel.

The rise follows a decision by the Home Office to freeze the policing grant for 2021/22 and allowing PCCs to significantly increase the policing part of the council tax in order to simply keep pace with inflation in the budget as a whole.

When announcing the police settlement in December, the Home Office included the full precept increase of £15 per year for the average Band D household, equivalent to 6.6% in Avon and Somerset.

“This is a really positive step for policing and is good news for residents as it will keep our communities safe, and allow us to work towards our vision of excellent victim services, better policing, and fairer criminal justice services for all," PCC Mountstevens added.

“Since 2012, it has been a priority of mine to put victims first and this investment will increase the forces investigative capacity to improve outcomes for victims and ensure we continue to give them a voice.

“Avon and Somerset Police receive one of the lowest funding settlements in the country compared to its relative need and population and, alongside the Chief Constable, I have long campaigned for fairer funding through the police funding formula.”