Police withhold �500,000 for new Norfolk centres

Teething issues with new police investigation centres (PICs) in Norfolk and Suffolk have seen the forces withhold more than �500,000 for the charge they pay contractors for the project.

Centres have already opened in Aylsham, Wymondham, King's Lynn, Martlesham and Bury St Edmunds with a sixth, at Gorleston, opening today as part of an �87.5m Private Finance Initiative deal.

A total of 146 cells have been constructed, replacing out-dated and often overcrowded cells in police stations with dedicated modern facilities which bring investigations staff together under one roof.

The project has been hailed 'a real success story' by Rupert Birtles, assistant chief officer (resources) of Norfolk Constabulary.

Speaking yesterday at a meeting of the Norfolk Police Authority's scrutiny, audit and assets committee, Mr Birtles said: 'They are excellent facilities which will support operational duties of the two forces for a long time to come.'

However, it emerged there were 'teething' issues with the computerised security and access system installed at the centres which has failed on a number of occasions.

Mr Birtles said there had not been 'any risk about security' or any 'significant operational issues' but it meant doors were slow to open, resulting in customer 'frustration'.

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He said the problem, together with a lack of general management on the sites ensuring issues like cleaning were dealt with efficiently, has led to the forces deducting a total of �530,344 from the unitary charge they pay.

The deductions have been made on the basis that the contractor, Justice Support Services (JSS), has not met performance targets set out in the deal. But Mr Birtles said the access had been resolved and added JSS was working to address the other issues.

A spokesman for Norfolk and Suffolk police, said: 'This demonstrates that Suffolk and Norfolk Police Authorities are prepared to manage contracts robustly in the public interest, ensuring work is completed to the highest standards.

The JSS declined to comment.

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