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24 June 2014, 07:41 | Updated: 24 June 2014, 08:15
The Chief Constable for Norfolk police has announced plans which could see 350 jobs lost over the next four years.
Simon Bailey's described his plan, which is all to meet the £20.3million funding gap by 2018, as ‘the most significant review of policing in the county in a generation’.
The Norfolk plan - which the Chief is due to present to the Norfolk Police and Crime Panel next Friday (July 4) – will see the workforce cut by around 350 posts over the next four years. Mr Bailey says it's in a bid to shield the frontline and maximise police officer numbers.
As part of the plan, the number of police officers - including chief officers - will fall and PCSO posts reduced by around 45%. At the same time, Norfolk will continue to recruit new police officers and invest in more resources to meet the county’s changing crime profile.
Mr Bailey's described Norfolk’s four-year plan as ‘stark’ but intended to be ‘future proof’. He says it will ensure the county continues to receive an effective operational police service now and in the years ahead.
He said: "As Chief Constable, it falls upon me to make some very difficult decisions about how our ever diminishing funds are best used to most benefit local communities.
"These are substantial cuts and mean - despite a huge amount of work already undertaken - that bold steps have to be taken to shield frontline resources as far as possible.
"My priority will always be to preserve our capability to provide an effective 24/7 emergency response, prevent and detect crime and protect the public from harm. Our plans will safeguard both these core functions and our commitment to neighbourhood policing.
"However, the scale of the deficit is such that this cannot be achieved without further reducing our workforce - including some frontline posts. This is the harsh reality but I will be doing everything I can to minimise the impact on both the service we deliver and on my staff.”
At next month’s Panel meeting Mr Bailey will outline proposals, developed over the past 18 months that have already identified £15.9 million of the required savings.
Of the estimated job losses, around two-thirds of these will be civilian police staff - with a reduction in PCSO posts by around 120 from the current 260. The force has already put a recruitment freeze on PCSOs and a moratorium on police staff recruitment in all but exceptional cases.
While the number of police officer posts, both operational and non-operational, are set to reduce by 120 across the organisation – the visible, uniformed presence will be largely unaffected - 12 neighbourhood officer posts out of 640 would go during the four year period.
Safer Neighbourhood Teams will remain along with specialist preventative roles in schools and police posts in multi-agency Operational Partnership Teams which work to tackle anti-social behaviour.
Police officer posts elsewhere in the organisation will see a gradual reduction over the four year period through restructuring, removal of some managerial and supervisory posts and investment in collaborative approaches.
The force will also look at the affordability of its older or under-used police buildings - excluding existing police response bases – and, over the coming months, carry out a review of its 15 public enquiry offices with a view to operating a reduced service in the future.
Chief officer posts will be reduced by 1.5 to 3.5 over the next 12 months.
The force has already reinvested £750,000 in savings in response to a rapid growth demand in crimes affecting vulnerable people. Extra staff have been drafted in to bolster the specialist resource required to deal with child and adult abuse and child sexual exploitation – including the creation of a new team to help safeguard children using the internet and social media.
Acknowledging the scale of the proposals, Mr Bailey said: "I recognise that some of these recommendations will not be popular. Nevertheless, I have to be satisfied that I can meet the public’s basic expectation that when someone in genuine need calls the police in Norfolk that there are sufficient resources available to respond.
"This inevitably means that we will have to scale back some of our non-essential services and continue to challenge inappropriate demands on our time. We maintain committed to our close collaboration with Suffolk and to working with partners locally and, most importantly, our local communities to achieve this.”
Paul Ridgway, Chairman of Norfolk Police Federation, which represents all officer ranks up to Chief Inspector, said: "These figures present the glaring reality of the impact the cuts are going to have on Norfolk Policing. We believe that Police officer numbers and Police staff numbers are already at an uncomfortable level with individual officers' workloads increasing.
"Norfolk Police officers have stood strong in the face of extreme cutbacks and unparalleled reform. It is testimony to the dedication and professionalism of Norfolk officers and police staff, that we have continued to function the way we have but the ongoing cuts will inevitably see a loss of invaluable skills and experience throughout the Force.
"Norfolk Police Federation warned earlier this year that by not collaborating control rooms, this could only mean a drop in staff. We recognise the efforts of the Chief Constable to attempt to minimise the impact of these cuts on frontline policing in the County and that other options are very limited, but nevertheless this will have a significant impact on Police numbers. Due to changes in types of crimes and incidents reported, which generally need more policing hours to deal with, we believe there is a need for more officers going forward, not less.
"To date there has not been a decrease on expectation of the service Norfolk Police has committed to deliver and we hope the Constabulary can sustain further cuts to officer and staff numbers without the public seeing an adverse effect to visible Policing in this county."
The proposals are set to be introduced in a phased manner over the next four years and subject to formal consultation periods with staff and representative bodies