PEOPLE who volunteer as police officers could pay no council tax under a new scheme.

The Echo can reveal Southend Council is considering introducing a tax discount of up to 100 per cent for residents who sign up to become special constables.

The move, designed to encourage more people to take an active role in their community, is the idea of the council’s Lib Dem group.

The authority’s Tory leaders welcomed the suggestion and agreed to investigate how it could work.

Graham Longley, Liberal Democrat leader, said: “I am very pleased our initiatives have been listened to and considered.

“This is an ideal way to try to get more people involved in playing a part in society and it would come at no direct cost to the council.”

Special constables are officers who volunteer to serve in their local police force.

Although they are not paid for the role, they are given the same legal powers as regular officers while on duty.

If the changes are brought in, anyone who completes a certain number of volunteering hours every month would qualify for a discount on their annual council tax charge.

The yearly council tax bill for a Band D household in Southend is £1,316.

Because the proposal is still in its early stages, it is not clear how big any discount could be.

However, in areas where a similar system has been introduced, such as South-ampton, special constables have been given a complete exemption from council tax.

If the proposal is accepted by the council’s Conser-vative leadership when officers have investigated it fully, the scheme could be brought in by the end of the year.

Nigel Holdcroft, the Tory council leader, said: “We have agreed to request a paper on the financial and practical ramifications of offering council tax rebates to special constables.

“I am pleased the Lib Dem group has raised these suggestions.

“Perhaps other groups will follow this lead, which has been sadly missing from all opposition parties over recent years.”

An Essex Police spokesman added: “We look forward to Southend Council contacting us to explore its plan.”