Chief Constable Simon Bailey: Norfolk Constabulary at breaking point and why 2pc council tax rise will go a long way to keep everyone safer
- Credit: Steve Adams
Like all police forces in England and Wales, Norfolk Constabulary has seen a profound change in its people, processes and demand in the last decade and budgets pushed to breaking point.
Government funding for the constabulary has been significantly reduced, so we are facing the challenge of doing more with less resources, finding new ways of working and making some difficult choices about how we keep the county safe.
By the end of March 2017, the organisation's budgets will be £30m lower, in order to bridge the gap between our income and the demand on our services. This permanent reduction in our spending has been achieved through a constant programme of streamlining and modernisation.
Half of these savings are as a result of our advanced collaboration with Suffolk Constabulary. I share all of my staff, assets and estate with the chief constable of Suffolk, bar local policing, safeguarding & investigations and the contact & control room.
Both organisations remain dedicated to forging ahead with joint working, held up as an exemplar by other forces. This collaborative work allows us to improve the capacity and capability of key services, and to reinvest savings and efficiencies back into frontline policing or use these to help address the financial gaps.
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Collaboration enables us to improve our responsiveness, effectiveness and quality of service for you, the public we serve.
Norfolk Constabulary's focus on providing a cost effective and efficient service while reducing crime and keeping people safe has been commended in the first of this year's Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabularies inspections on efficiency, which took place back in June.
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The force has once again been recognised for its outstanding understanding of current and future demand while identifying savings and requirements for investment.
However, to meet the financial challenges, I have had to reduce my supervisory numbers at all ranks, in both frontline and detective roles. This includes my chief officers team – I currently have a deputy chief constable, one assistant chief constable dedicated to local policing and one other shared with Suffolk Constabulary for the protective services command.
I have a part-time chief finance officer and three chief superintendents – this is the leanest the force has ever been.
I am now at a level which I truly believe I cannot go below, due to the need for minimum numbers of supervisors on call and in order to meet custody requirements.
I have also had to reduce my frontline workforce by 300 uniforms; 200 officers and 100 PCSOs. However, the consistent concern when I speak to members of the public is visibility of uniformed officers.
This was also raised to the police and crime commissioner during his public consultation.
Norfolk is widely recognised as a safe county to live and work in, but it is not just about being safe, it's also about feeling safe which is why visibility in policing is such an important priority.
Both the police and crime commissioner and I have listened to your concerns, and following the public consultation, he has pledged to include an increase in visible policing as one of the strategic aims of his police and crime plan.
I too am dedicated to investing in increasing our visibility – I have recently created seven engagement officers across the county, to manage specific areas of engagement with the public: police volunteers, the special Constabulary, community speed watch, police cadets and Neighbourhood Watch.
However, I still feel we have to do more as an organisation. Whilst we continue to be an outstanding force, the changing face of crime is now bringing unprecedented demands which need to be met.
When I joined the force over 30 years ago, a typical day was attending a burglary, the theft of a car or a shed being broken into.
These crimes do still get reported to us, although thankfully less and less, but the types of crimes now most reported are domestic-related abuse and assault, non-recent and current child abuse and sexual offences.
I cannot ignore this change in crime: I have to investigate these awful offences.
Supporting victims of crime and bringing perpetrators to justice takes a vast amount of time and money. But it is the right thing to do.
If there is no precept rise in the coming year, the constabulary will remain with a further £3.5m funding gap. The precept increase equates to £4.23 a year for a band D property, or eight pence per week.
A two per cent council tax rise would reduce the budget gap to £2.3m which we will work tirelessly to meet by becoming more efficient.
I am not making these representations lightly but I want to do the best I can to ensure the community of Norfolk gets the best service from the constabulary – and to do this, I will need a two per cent rise in the precept.