Suffolk police pledge not to axe frontline staff

Suffolk Constabulary has unveiled its blueprint for the future of policing in the county and renewed its pledge not to axe frontline officers.

Chief Constable Simon Ash acknowledged tough decisions have had to be made with the force being compelled to save �13.6m over a four-year period due to drastic cuts in government funding.

However, the reality is that the majority of savings – including the previously announced loss of 100 police officer posts and 200 civilian jobs – need to be made during this year and in 2012/13.

Although personnel accounts for about 80pc of the constabulary's current revenue budget of �130m, Mr Ash stressed every aspect of the organisation had come under the spotlight during a far-reaching review.

Outlining the county's new policing strategy, he said: 'The challenge we have got is a big one, but we do have a clear plan to deal with that. It's not going to be easy, but we are fortunate we have a very committed and dedicated workforce.'

The strategy is the culmination of work stretching back to the beginning of last year. Among the force's priorities are to maintain its crime-fighting capability and its quality of service.

The work of the county's 29 Safer Neighbourhood Teams (SNTs) is seen as imperative. Although Mr Ash said there was no part of the force which would be unaffected by change, he vowed there would be no reduction in constables and police community support officers in those teams, or emergency response officers.

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A major focus would be on slimming the management structure, with a reduction of �2.5m in supervisory costs to preserve local policing. The ongoing collaboration work, primarily with Norfolk Constabulary, will also feature heavily in achieving the necessary cost-cutting.

The dog units, major investigation, and firearm licensing teams have already been combined. During the next two years, all protective services resources will be joined between the two counties. Civilian support functions are also being combined.

The property the constabulary owns has also been reviewed. There are new state-of-the-art police investigation centres in Bury St Edmunds and Martlesham, as well as in Norfolk, where suspects are taken after arrest. This means traditional-style police stations in need of costly renovation will be closed.

However, SNTs will remain in those locations. Woodbridge police station is the latest closure to be announced and bases in Ixworth, Debenham, and Elmswell are currently being looked at. Mr Ash said officers would be sharing premises in future with local authority personnel, such as the fire service.

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