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6 February 2019, 15:20 | Updated: 6 February 2019, 18:45
The thin blue line in Bedfordshire could be significantly strengthened with the addition of 400 more police officers.
The Police Commissioner has signalled hundreds more officers could be employed thanks to a £2 per month increase in the "police part" of the council tax in Bedfordshire.
Commissioner Kathryn Holloway (pictured) says she's backing the recruitment of up to 400 new Police Constables and double the number of PCs in Community Policing across the county after the plan was approved last night by the Police and Crime Panel.
The PCC explained the number of recruits would be funded as a result of a combination of the one-off Special Policing Grant of £4.571m she won from the Home Office last December and a total of £8m, made up of the police’s council tax precept and Government grants of £1.1m and £1.3m as part of the Policing Settlement for all forces for this financial year, which was also announced in December.
She told the Bedfordshire Police and Crime Panel, who must vote on her budget and precept proposal, she had been “insistent” that the increase in council tax was not simply used to tackle costs rising with inflation like pay, pensions and insurance, but to deliver a meaningful uplift in officers in visible policing in communities.
“This is why we have agreed a budget which creates 160 new PCs in Bedfordshire in the year 2019-20 and that those going into the eight Community Policing Hubs in towns around the county, and at Luton Airport, will double the available number of PCs already in post in neighbourhood policing.
This is a really meaningful uplift and is what everybody tells me they want,” said PCC Holloway.
The Commissioner also revealed Bedfordshire Police is to create a Neighbourhood Intervention Team made up of a Sergeant and nine PCs to move from area to area as trouble shooters following the success of Operation Hilton, to combat drug dealing in Dunstable and Leighton Buzzard, in early autumn 2018.
The announcement comes as the MP for South West Bedfordshire - Andrew Selous - announced in Parliament yesterday that one Sunday in September last year - the force "ran out of officers".
In response to the MP's statement; Chief Constable Jon Boutcher said:
"The letter from me quoted in the House of Commons this week relates to a day in Bedfordshire in September last year which highlighted in microcosm the issues we face on a daily basis.
On that particular day, a Sunday in September, our officers had to deal with numerous crimes including four rapes, the tragic fatal stabbing of a teenager, a large gang fight involving weapons in which a teenage boy suffered life-threatening injuries and many young men were hospitalised, several serious assaults at Bedford prison and a young man presenting himself at hospital with gunshot injuries from another violent crime.
I am sure everyone can imagine the level of resources required to manage these complex incidents involving arrests, scene guards, hospital guards, traffic management and the interaction with families suffering unexpected loss and serious injury to loved ones. There then remains the requirement to respond to all other incidents that are taking place.
The point of highlighting this day was that it was a reflection of the complexity and level of crime we have to deal with - which you would expect in a large metropolitan area - yet we are funded as a small rural force. Existing police numbers do not allow for the response that our communities have a right to expect.
Police funding issues are no secret and my force has been lobbying for proper funding for the police service for some time. This particular day outlined the reality of what we are up against - too often we simply do not have the officers to respond to every incident as we would want, and as the public would expect us to. We run out of officers to deal with emergency calls. We will, of course, always prioritise emergency calls but the situation cannot be allowed to get any worse. This is not crying wolf. These are facts.
I do believe the current Policing Minister and Home Secretary understand the issues we face and I welcome the recent shift in approach to police funding under the current Home Secretary with Bedfordshire receiving an additional investment of a £4.571m Special Grant to tackle guns and gangs and the ability for our Police and Crime Commissioner to increase the council tax precept.
The first responsibility of government is to protect its citizens. I can assure everyone that police officers and staff across the country want to respond to all incidents where the public need our help and to provide the public with the best possible service. We are not crying wolf we are asking for the tools to do the job.
This is not rocket science."