Norfolk police reveal four stations to close to public in bid to save £360k
- Credit: IAN BURT
A Norfolk police chief has insisted plans to shut four public enquiry offices (PEOs) and cut the opening hours of others to help meet government cuts 'will not affect our commitment to policing in the affected areas'.
Temporary Assistant Chief Constable Nick Dean has spoken out following the announcement that PEOs at Attleborough, Swaffham, Gorleston and Diss will close by July while other offices across the county will have their opening hours slashed.
The changes, which will generate more than £360,000 of savings, have been revealed as it emerged the force, which remains on track to deliver the bulk of the £20m savings required by 2018, is likely to have to find an additional £5m by 2020.
But Mr Dean said the plans, which have followed a review which showed people physically calling at police stations continued to fall, would not have a detrimental impact.
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He said: 'Cuts to the police budget mean we have to make some difficult decisions in order to maintain visibility and maximize frontline officer numbers.
'This is the reality of our situation.
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'It is a fact that fewer people now pop into a police station, preferring instead to use telephone or online services.
Stations affected by PEO closure will continue to be used as operational police bases with plans in place to ensure local communities still have access to officers.
The yellow phones located outside each of the PEOs will remain in place and can be used 24 hours a day, taking callers through to another PEO or police control room.
Last year Chief Constable Simon Bailey outlined how the force intended to bridge the funding gap in the coming years with a view to preserving frontline resources as far as possible.
Norfolk's police and crime commissioner Stephen Bett, who yesterday had his proposals for a 2pc increase in the police precept accepted, insisted that despite PEOs closing, it would not be a case of people being asked to pay more for less.
He said: 'Policing is changing and what we're having to deal with is changing.
'What we're finding is people aren't now trudging all the way up to the police station to report a crime or whatever – they're doing it online or by phone and we just have to adapt to what's happening in the modern day.'
Why is this taking place?
This move is as a result of the savings programme, instigated by government cuts, that the force is currently undertaking to close the funding gap of £20.3m for Norfolk by March 2018. It is also now estimated that an additional £5million will need to be found by 2020. The savings need to be found and tough decisions need to be made. Continuing to preserve frontline police services remains the priority for Norfolk Constabulary despite the current financial challenge. The money saved from this project will help contribute to this.
When would the PEOs be closing if this goes ahead?
Closures /reduction of hours will all be in place by July 2015.
What is the reasoning for the reduction in PEO service?
The PEOs identified for closure are four of the five lowest demand. The reduced opening hours in the remaining stations enables retention of geographic cover and wider station robustness. Diss and Attleborough are located away from town centre and Diss, Gorleston and Attleborough PEOs already operate reduced hours. The transfer of line management and resulting local tasking will improve local delivery.
Where do the public go now for queries?
The yellow phones located outside each of the PEOs will remain in place and can be used 24 hours a day. Using one of these will either take you through to another open PEO or to an operator in the Contact and Control Room at Wymondham. Each Local Policing Commander (particularly in Breckland, South Norfolk and Great Yarmouth where the four closures will take place) will be expanding their own local engagement plans to demonstrate how they will continue to have a visible presence in their neighbourhoods and ensure members of the public can speak direct to a police officer/PSCO going forward. The force website has a wealth of information contained on it including details of each SNT team, the work they are currently doing and their current priorities and outcomes. You can also find advice on crime prevention, personal safety and ways to contact the police.
Are the police buildings themselves remaining open?
The buildings themselves will remain open and operationally active for police officers/PCSOs/Specials 24 hours, seven days a week. It is just the front office counter that will be affected in some areas. For security and operational reasons the public will not be able to access these buildings as they hold sensitive items such as criminal evidence, crime files, personal data and operational equipment.
Will it affect local policing in my area?
It will not affect our commitment to policing or the public's access to local officers. It's not about withdrawing from communities, but changing the way the force works - to make ourselves more accessible to the public at the right time in the right places. This has been a carefully researched project to ensure we achieve the right balance of maintaining frontline policing, retain areas of estate that are important to the force and to our communities, and cut costs where we can without detriment to the public. Appropriate numbers of police officers will continue to be placed in the right places, at the right time to meet demand, and this will always be kept under review. The closures will provide more opportunities to be visible, accessible, flexible and responsive to the public rather than being limited to the more traditional bricks and mortar buildings. We need an efficient and flexible service which balances force business and operational requirements.
How do I contact Norfolk Police?
The public should remember that 999 incidents should not be reported via a station public enquiry office. Any individual outside a station in an emergency situation will not be ignored, they will be dealt with immediately. Both 999 and 101 numbers will remain 24/7 with the CCR committed to meeting strict response times.
The force website contains a wealth of information including who is part of your SNT team, the work they are currently doing and their current priorities and outcomes. You can also find advice on crime prevention, personal safety and ways to contact us as well. There is also an FAQ section A to Z on many areas on police related matters that the public may have questions about. Anyone wishing to contact your SNT can email sntNAME@norfolk.pnn.police.uk or call 101.
You can also sign up to the force's free messaging service Police Connect. You can receive information about the issues that most matter to you and be among the first to be alerted by police in the case of an emergency affecting your area. You can choose to receive regular updates on crime and public appeals, safety advice and meetings and events.
Remember: Always dial 999 if you are facing an incident/crime and you need police help immediately.
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