Jobs to go and stations affected in big Suffolk police shake-up

Suffolk Police

Suffolk Police

Suffolk police today defended a major restructuring which will leave 262 civilian posts at risk, Safer Neighbourhood Teams cut and 15 police stations closed to the public – including those at Beccles, Halesworth and Eye.

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The Police Federation fears the changes – including the loss of 68 police community support officers – are another step towards the force becoming an emergency-response only service.

It also expressed concerns about losing touch with communities.

However, Suffolk's Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore and Temporary Chief Constable Gareth Wilson believe the public will not be adversely affected.

They said the job cuts and restructure have been forced on the constabulary due to the need to cut £20.5m from its budget by 2020.

As part of the overhaul – which will go live from April 2016 – it will reduce Safer Neighbourhood Teams (SNTs) from 29 to 18, and the number of Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) cut by 68, from 166 to 98.

A total of 103 full-time equivalent civilian roles will be lost – although around 20 of the PCSO posts are currently vacant.

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Twenty-six police officers will not be replaced when they retire or leave in the next four months, making around 160 (13pc) fewer officers in the force than at March 31, 2014.

Over the past 12 months Mr Passmore and Mr Wilson have been speaking to communities during roadshows and meetings while the review has been undertaken.

Mr Wilson said: 'We have spoken to the public and had some really good discussions with people from all over the county and absolutely promised Safer Neighbourhood Teams will be the core of our new policing model and we will still retain a significant investment in PCSOs and police officers to fulfil that role.

'It is not about doing the same. It's doing things differently.

'It is with much regret that we have had to reduce the size of our workforce, as every member of the organisation plays a valuable role in keeping our communities safe.'

Mr Wilson added although the number of SNTs are being reduced there will be a re-allocation of some of the officers' current responsibilities to compensate. Mr Passmore said he envisaged the review would bring a better distribution of the police's workload and also pointed out 37pc of the force's current demand is related to mental health matters. He added: 'We are not a mental health service or social service and would say the constabulary with its 'can-do' attitude does more than its fair share of work to keep the public safe.

'I'm optimistic about the future providing the rest of Suffolk gets behind this and that includes the rest of the public sector.'

The changes mean all the police stations in Suffolk will be closed to the public except Museum Street in Ipswich and the stations in Bury St Edmunds and Lowestoft. However, all 18 will remain operational.

Police have said demand facing officers has changed so services need to be realigned to the areas posing the greatest threat, harm and risk.

Suffolk Police Federation secretary Mick Richardson claimed the cuts could mean the force moving closer to becoming an emergency response only service. The union fears by taking officers off the streets police will become more remote.

Mr Richardson said: 'It is with great regret that as a result of unprecedented reductions in government spending on policing nationally that the Suffolk Constabulary has to – yet again – restructure and redesign its public-facing service to the communities that we serve.'

What do you think about the cuts? Email edpletters@archant.co.uk giving your full name, address and contact details.