Concern over scale of police cuts in Norfolk

Earlham Shopper owner, Nigel Dowdney, after the robbery at his shop at Earlham West Centre. Picture: Denise Bradley Earlham Shopper owner, Nigel Dowdney, after the robbery at his shop at Earlham West Centre. Picture: Denise Bradley

Wednesday, June 25, 2014
9:34 AM

Simon Bailey has described his plans to meet the £20.3m funding gap by 2018 as “the most significant review of policing in the county in a generation”.

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The Norfolk plan – which the chief is due to present to Norfolk’s police and crime panel (PCP) on July 4 – will see the workforce cut by around 350 posts over the next four years in a bid to shield the front line and maximise police officer numbers.

But while there will inevitably have to be cuts, questions have been raised as to whether cutting police community support officers (PCSOs) by almost half (45pc) and losing 120 police officer posts is really protecting the front line.

Nigel Dowdney, who has this year suffered two armed robberies at the Earlham Shopper store he runs in Norwich, said the decision is “very sad news” and does not sound as if it is protecting the front line.

Mr Dowdney, who also has a store in Stalham and is a director of and East Anglian spokesman of the Association of Convenience Stores, was particularly concerned about the reduction in PCSOs who were introduced as the “eyes and ears” of the police following the roll out of Safer Neighbourhood Teams.

He said: “PCSOs were put in because there wasn’t a large police presence on the streets. Since we’ve had PCSOs there have been people walking the streets – they are the face of the police force. I think it’s sad if things are going back to the old days of not having people on the beat and having distance between people and the community. When they say they’re not cutting down on people in the front line it seems to me like they are.” He added: “I’ve always had a good relationship with the police, both at Earlham and at Stalham, and it would be a shame to see any lessening of the influence local police have in any community.”

Simon Woodbridge, member champion for crime prevention and community safety at Broadland District Council, which was last year rated the most peaceful place in the UK, said it was a “bit of a worry” when resources like this were having to “contract” but insisted communities also had a role in helping the police to keep areas safe by keeping their eyes open and reporting crime.Describing the proposals as “stark” but intended to be “future proof”, Mr Bailey said Norfolk’s four-year plan will ensure the county continues to receive an effective operational police service now and in the years ahead.

He said: “My priority will always be to preserve our capability to provide an effective 24/7 emergency response, prevent and detect crime and protect the public from harm. Our plans will safeguard both these core functions and our commitment to neighbourhood policing.”

Safer Neighbourhood Teams will remain, along with specialist preventative roles in schools and police posts in multi-agency Operational Partnership Teams which work to tackle anti-social behaviour.

Acknowledging the scale of the proposals, Mr Bailey said: “I recognise some of these recommendations will not be popular. Nevertheless, I have to be satisfied that I can meet the public’s basic expectation that when someone in genuine need calls the police in Norfolk that there are sufficient resources available to respond.”

A Home Office spokesman said:

“Police reform is working and crime has fallen by 12% in Norfolk since June 2010. Like all parts of the public sector, the police must play their part in helping to tackle the deficit.

“But there is no question that the police will still have the resources to do their important work. It is for chief constables to make sure all appropriate action is taken against crime in their areas and for police and crime commissioners to hold their forces to account on behalf of local people.”

Are you concerned about the impact of police cuts in your area? Email peter.walsh@archant.co.uk or call 07501 464610.

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