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10 February 2011, 13:35 | Updated: 21 February 2011, 14:34
Ann Barnes, Chair of the Kent Police Authority, has announced a freeze on police council tax and changes to how the county is policed.
This is the Authority Statement
Police Authority members unanimously made the decisions at a meeting held on Wednesday at Kent Police Headquarters. A budget of £288million was agreed of which 69 per cent is funded by the government and 31 per cent by the police council taxpayer.
Ann Barnes, Chair of Kent Police Authority said: ‘This year has been the most difficult and challenging year. We have chosen to freeze the police council tax as we understand that everyone is experiencing difficult times. We are all making tough decisions about how we spend our own money and making financial sacrifices. Also, we have set stretching targets for the Force to ensure taxpayers of Kent and Medway get an even better policing service that’s value for money.’
Police Authority members also agreed a proposal for a new policing model for the county. The restructure will involve reducing the current six policing areas to just three, East Kent, West Kent, and North Kent and Medway.
Discussions will now take place with officers and staff, and stakeholders, prior to the detailed implementation of the new model. The move follows a rethink in light of the comprehensive spending review resulting in a 20 per cent cut, around £53million, to the police budget over the next four years, as well as a drive to improve police performance.
The new policing model will bring a number of benefits to how the county is policed. This includes a borderless response, allowing the nearest response officer to attend an emergency call, even if that call comes under a different policing area. It will also potentially allow for more officers to be moved into uniformed street patrol duties on the frontline.
Speaking after the meeting Mrs Barnes said: ‘It’s early days for our new policing model but the Authority is very happy indeed to endorse the new set up. I’m very excited by the future and I am confident this can only further enhance our policing service in Kent. I have every faith in our Chief Constable and let’s remember this isn’t new for him as he has already been through a restructure in Norfolk, and successfully saved money and improved performance.
'I’m especially pleased that neighbourhood policing will be the bedrock of the new model, and will watch with interest as it starts to take shape. Given the financial challenges now is a good time to take a step back and take a real hard look at how we do business. This isn’t a knee jerk reaction to save money but will mean we can continue to ensure a quality policing service in Kent despite the challenges ahead.’
This is the statement from Kent Chief Constable Ian Learmonth
Kent Police has presented plans to the Kent Police Authority for a new policing model as part of the Force's modernisation programme, with a commitment to protect and increase the front-line of policing in the county despite a challenging budget settlement.
This will see neighbourhood officers increasing by fifty per cent from around 800 officers and staff to 1200, ensuring front line policing is enhanced and delivers the service that the public of Kent expect.
Chief Constable Ian Learmonth said: 'I am determined that front line policing is prioritised as part of our restructuring plans. The Police Authority has endorsed a new model that will see fifty percent more officers for neighbourhood policing. This will provide a quicker and more efficient response to persistent policing problems, helping us get it right first time, working with local people to ensure crime and disorder are effectively tackled.
'It has been an extremely challenging process, and it certainly wont be pain-free as we need to make a twenty per cent budget reduction, which equates to 1,000 staff posts and 500 officers. We are fundamentally redesigning the policing model for Kent by streamlining and rationalising support services and re-aligning some of our specialist policing functions to continue to deliver a first-class service. Already, we have made significant savings by running joint departments in our collaboration with Essex Police and this will continue to be part of the solution for a more efficient force for the future.'
Kent Police and Essex Police have one of the largest joint Serious Crime Directorates in the country. There are also joint procurement, information technology and marine units with collaborative working making best use of resources, skills and experience.
Police response will be managed from the Force Contact and Control Centre, ensuring the nearest officer attends an emergency call, allowing officers to cross over into other divisions to provide the fastest, most efficient response.
Never before has there been so many ways to contact police or get in touch with your local officers. This is improved by the new model where there will be more neighbourhood officers visible to the public.
Anyone can get in touch with police or their neighbourhood officers at public meetings, online beat meetings, via the Kent Police website, Facebook, Twitter and by ringing 01622 690690.