A campaign to give volunteer police officers a 50 per cent council tax discount has been branded “absurd” and an “insult” to people’s good will.
The Reverend Paul Nicolson, of Campbell Road, Tottenham, is one of many who have attacked the Liberal Democrat proposal to give Special Constables a tax cut.
Campaigners believe the discount would reward existing ‘Specials’ and encourage more people to volunteer and help the police fight crime.
But Rev Nicolson, a campaigner who refused to pay his council tax in protest against benefit cuts, disagrees. He said: “This policy is an insult to the good spirit in which people volunteer and we do not need a pathetic bribe to get people to do good in our community.
“It is totally absurd. The council charges benefit claimants who struggle to put food on the table at least 20 per cent of council tax.
“It makes absolutely no sense to give any old special constable a 50 council tax discount for volunteering just 16 hours a month regardless of how much money they make.”
Unlike Police Community Support Officers, Specials have the same powers and responsibilities as regular police officers.
They spend up to 16 hours a month volunteering with the police - without pay - in order to help make communities safer.
There are currently 62 Specials in the borough, so a discount at the average band D rate would cost the council around £46,000.
Rev Nicolson said the discount would mean Specials would no longer be volunteers as they would be gaining financially from the role.
He said: “If Specials get this discount where will it stop?
“There are volunteers all over the place – in foodbanks, in soups kitchens, and people who volunteer with the disabled. Is the work they do any less worthy?”
Sharon Grant, the chairman of Tottenham’s Citizens Advice Bureau, said the policy was divisive within the voluntary sector.
She said: “Most volunteers are not doing it for any rewards and nor would they expect one – rewards are not why people volunteer.
“There are 60 volunteers at Citizens Advice Bureau, they do a year’s training and then spend many hours each week helping people in the borough.
“They do this because they want to and if you introduce financial incentives then young get people volunteering for very different reasons.”
Seema Chandwani, a youth worker, said council tax benefits should not be used as a reward to subsidise policing in the borough.
She said: “Paying council taxes, or indeed any taxes is our civic duty, it helps pay for the services we all directly and indirectly benefit from.
“While some may feel these taxes are high or are not spent effectively, this is a different argument to whether they should be paid.
“The only people who should not pay, are those who cannot pay and we assess this through a standard means test.”
Haringey Borough Council will debate the policy at a meeting of full council on February 26.
What do you think? Vote in our poll or leave a comment below.