'Affordability essential' in police overhaul

A proposed overhaul of Norfolk police would have a positive impact on the frontline but must be affordable, the body which oversees the force said last night.

A proposed overhaul of Norfolk police would have a positive impact on the frontline but must be affordable, the body which oversees the force said last night.

Norfolk Police Authority held a special meeting to consider this week's announcement that chief constable Ian McPherson intends to scrap locally based area commanders in favour of a new centralised "county delivery unit". The scheme is designed to cut costs while increasing the number of bobbies on the beat.

Authority chairman Stephen Bett said that it was essential the changes happened but "up-front costs" must be kept in check. His comments come as the force prepares for an expected shortfall in Home Office funding.

Mr Bett said: "A lot of work has gone into this project but it is only now that the hard work begins. The emphasis is now on 'delivery, delivery, delivery'.

"We had to do something given the three-year comprehensive spending review which, depending on the formula changes which are potentially in the pipeline, would see Norfolk losing out in the tune of £5m or more annually.

"While this was not all about money, it is by the application of sound business analysis and planning that we have confidence that we can pull off the trick of reducing costs while improving frontline services".

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In a statement the authority said it was incumbent on the constabulary and authority to do all they could to manage the process at an affordable cost. While set-up costs are inescapable, it is hoped that money saved by cutting out bureaucracy would lead to a long-term reduction in spending.

The new structure would see the number of chief superintendants reduced from three to one, who would oversee the whole county. This officer would be in charge of seven superintendants and 32 local inspectors link to the 52 existing safer neighbourhood teams.

Meanwhile Mr Bett said it was not yet clear how the funding crisis may hit council tax payers but said it was clear government policy was shifting money away from provincial forces.

He said: "We are looking at worse case scenarios of anything up to 9pc. I am aware that this is potentially modest compared to some increases being currently considered around the country."

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