A group of independent councillors has claimed that a consultation on hiking the Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner’s (PCC) council tax levy was skewed towards areas with low crime rates.

PCC Kim McGuinness, who is also the Labour Party’s candidate for North East mayor, confirmed last month that she would be imposing a 7.7 per cent increase on the council tax police precept paid by households in Tyne and Wear and Northumberland.

The results of a public consultation on the plans, which Ms McGuinness said were needed to “rescue” her force from needing to make more than £4 million of cuts and deliver new investment in frontline policing, showed majority support among those who took part.

But the PCC’s office has now been accused of disproportionately targeting residents for responses in areas where crime numbers are lower.

The results of a freedom of information (FOI) request show that households in North Tyneside and Northumberland, the two local authority districts in the Northumbria force area with the lowest rates of crime, received notably more letters from the PCC directing them to take part in an online survey.

A total of 38,438 letters were sent to Northumberland and 31,212 to North Tyneside.

But only 20,000 were sent to Newcastle, 11,700 to Gateshead, 10,000 to Sunderland, and just 9,750 to South Tyneside.

Dan Dowling, a Northumberland resident who sent the FOI, said the discrepancy “doesn’t seem fair at all”.

The PCC’s office told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that its letter deliveries were done “in the most cost-effective way” and that its critics were spouting “wild theories”.

Mr Dowling, of Haydon Bridge, said: “The council tax precept was going up in all areas, so that means more people in North Tyneside are deciding what happens in Sunderland than the people who live there. That’s not right.”

Independent councillors from around the region have alleged that the figures were “skewed” in favour of low-crime districts and to areas north of the Tyne.

Marc Donnelly, an independent councillor in Newcastle, accused the PCC of being “selective in where the letters were sent, to whom they were sent… and most likely taking into account crime statistics and figures”.

The crime rates in North Tyneside and Northumberland to the year ending September 2023 were 87 and 76 incidents per 1,000 population, according to the Office for National Statistics, while the other four council areas within the force boundary had a rate of 100 or above.

A report from January detailing the results of the PCC’s survey showed the highest number of its 1,337 responses did come from North Tyneside and Northumberland, with 276 each.

That report admits there was a “slight under-representation of respondents from Sunderland and Newcastle, but an over-representation of respondents from North Tyneside”.

North Tyneside independent councillor Cath Davis said there were “real questions to be answered”.

She added: “If you’re going to do a public consultation it needs to be fair and transparent and this one doesn’t seem to stand up to scrutiny.”

Durham Council independent Alan Shield, whose patch is outside the Northumbria force area, claimed that the results indicated “a serious element of misrepresentation” that “smacks of trying to influence the results”.

A spokesperson for the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Northumbria, responded: “121,000 letters were sent to Northumbria residents with deliveries booked in the most cost-effective way for maximum reach. North of Tyne we were able to distribute the consultation by adding letters onto pre-existing deliveries, which kept costs down. In other areas, there were no pre-existing deliveries available for us to add to, meaning we had to pay for new deliveries which is more costly, and therefore impacted distribution numbers. Deliveries were simply about getting maximum reach for our money, despite what wild theories are suggesting.”

The precept rise is expected to generate an extra £5.4 million and equates to a rise of £13 per year for Band D homes, which is the maximum level allowed by the Government, or £8.67 for Band A properties.

Ms McGuinness pledged that the extra cash will be used to explore the reopening of some police stations that have been closed down, to launch a region-wide unit dedicated to tackling anti-social behaviour involving motorbikes, and to hire more investigators.