This time of year can be a bit bleak for all of us. The winter days are cold and dark and the bills from Christmas are still stacking up.
But there is one bill that won’t be going up this year and that’s what people in Herts will be paying for policing.
We have been able to freeze the policing precept – the share of the council tax bill which goes towards paying for the police.
Hertfordshire is one of only four policing areas nationally not to put up the bill in 2014/15 and I was delighted to be the first police and crime commissioner in the country to announce a freeze. Your policing precept has now seen no increase for four years running.
So the vast majority of UK residents will be paying more council tax for their police service this year.
I understand the tough decisions facing many commissioners up and down the country.
However, I listened to what residents here were telling me and decided that we could manage a freeze while at the same time protecting local policing.
And protecting local policing is the crucial part of the equation. Both the chief constable and I agree that having locally-based teams of officers is both reassuring to residents and businesses and also helps cut crime.
The appreciation of this was brought home to me in Abbots Langley when I met a group of local business people. I was there with Councillor Sara Bedford from Three Rivers District Council to discuss crime and anti-social behaviour issues in the area.
I was struck how impressed all members of the group, which included the local butcher, the pharmacist and others, were with the local neighbourhood policing team.
Having officers attached to a particular area means that residents and businesses can get to know their local PCs and PCSOs. This builds trust and confidence which would be lost in a flash if it was cut and centralised to somewhere else in the county for the sake of balancing the books.
We would all be worse off as a community, of that I have no doubt, but also crime would go up as a result.
To reinforce my commitment to this, the policing budget for Hertfordshire includes plans to recruit around 100 new police officers, 70 PCSOs and more than 100 special constables throughout the year.
Doing this while freezing council tax is possible partly because of a better-than-expected funding deal from central government, but also because of the work we’ve been doing to cut the costs of back office staffing.
An example of this would be the memorandum of understanding I signed late last year that will see further collaboration work between Hertfordshire and our neighbouring forces in Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire.
This will play a significant role in streamlining the back office functions of the three forces, meaning more of the money you pay through council tax goes directly towards front line policing.
So I hope this is one big freeze we have this winter that is welcome, and it provides some consolation to those who are working out how pay off those Christmas credit card bills.
David Lloyd is the police and crime commissioner for Herts.
You can contact his office on 01707 806100 or visit the website at www.hertscommissioner.org