Police delight - but there's more to do

Norfolk's top police officer last night pledged to make the force one of the best in the country after a government watchdog found its performance had improved dramatically in the past year.

Norfolk's top police officer last night pledged to make the force one of the best in the country after a government watchdog found its performance had improved dramatically in the past year.

Chief constable Ian McPherson, who took over the job in January, also promised to resist government funding cuts and said he would not allow an impending financial crisis to hit the number of bobbies on the beat.

He was speaking after Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary published its annual police performance assessment and baseline inspection reports. Home Office minister Tony McNulty warned that forces are facing financially “tight” times. He said: “We are now entering a more flat-line period in terms of resources after seven or eight years of growth.”

Last year Norfolk came in for criticism after its neighbourhood policing scheme was rated as 'poor'. But, following the introduction of safer neighbourhood teams across the county, it is now rated as 'fair' and improving. It was also rate as 'excellent' for tackling crime and satisfaction and fairness.

An unofficial league table, compiled by assigning a points value to each rating, ranked Norfolk thirteenth out of the UK's 43 forces - last year it was placed in the bottom ten. Suffolk was ranked sixth and Cambridgeshire thirtieth.

Mr McPherson said: “We are delighted with these latest findings. We have reduced crime by 5.7pc over the last three years and so far this year we have reduced offending by a further 6.7pc alongside increases in detection rates.”

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However, he acknowledged that the force faces a challenging year ahead. Police authority chairman Stephen Bett had earlier warned that frontline jobs, including police community support officer posts, may be slashed as the force faces a multi-million pound shortfall in Home Office funding.

Mr McPherson said: “It is going to be an extremely demanding time and inevitably in an organisation as large as this any financial shortfall will have a knock-on effect on jobs,” he said.

“But I will resist any reduction in the number of police officers on the streets and I will ensure that our neighbourhood policing teams are introduced as planned.

“I am delighted that the force has done so well but this is only the beginning - we have much more to do. These results are a clear indication that we are not only on the right track but that we can aspire to do even better.”

Mr Bett welcomed the report saying they represented 'milestones' for the force. He said: “We've bounced back extremely strongly from the previous inspections and reviews and I believe we have got the right people in place to continue the good work.”

Cambridgeshire police was described as “one of the most improved forces”. It achieved five 'good' markings and one 'fair' in seven key areas.

Assistant chief constable Mark Hopkins said: “These gradings and HMIC's comments are very welcome. Both confirm the continuing improvement in the service we deliver to Cambridgeshire.”

Suffolk's chief constable, Simon Ash, said: “Suffolk has faced an exceptionally challenging year. The HMIC's report highlights the high standard of performance that has resulted from the hard work and commitment everyone involved with Suffolk Constabulary has shown over the last 12 months.

“While this does re-affirm Suffolk's position as one of the best performing police forces in the country we cannot afford to be complacement. There are still areas of improvement and we will work to develop in these areas to ensure the people of Suffolk receive an even higher quality of service.”

Nationally, Bedfordshire was the worst-performing force, scoring just one point out of a possible 21, while Surrey and Lancashire ranked the highest.

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