Suffolk/Norfolk: Continued cutbacks could leave police at crisis point – warning
PUBLISHED: 21:03 24 February 2014 | UPDATED: 21:55 24 February 2014
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Police representatives have today warned that the service in Suffolk will reach “crisis point” if Government cuts continue unabated.
Suffolk’s Police Federation chairman Matt Gould made the comments in a statement with his Norfolk counterpart, Paul Ridgway, responding to shared services proposals designed to save the two counties’ forces a combined £4.3m.
The recommendations, which include moving Suffolk’s control room, where 134 civilian staff currently work, to Wymondham in Norfolk - saving £1.8m - form part of plans to meet required budget reductions of £36.7m for the two forces by March 2018.
Mr Gould believes the changes are purely about cutting cost, rather than providing a better service.
He said: “This is in relation to savings both forces have had to make. It is not about improving services to the people of Suffolk. It’s about saving money.”
In a joint statement issued with Mr Ridgway, earlier in the day, they said, the centralising of a combined control room would make “little or no” difference to services.
However, they added: “It is clear however, that the severity of cuts to the police service has negatively impacted on officer and staff morale.
“We have liaised with our separate police and crime commissioners and local MPs to be mindful of the strain with which officers and staff are facing.
“We believe that if the Government continue with the planned cuts as announced, there will become a time in the near future when both forces will reach crisis point and it is then that the public will see an irretrievable change to the police service they currently experience across the two forces.”
Union leaders have also condemned the proposals and demanded that a full public consultation takes place.
UNISON regional organiser, Yvonne Cleary said: “There are sound reasons why every other police force in the country has its own control room – why should the people of Suffolk be subject to a cost saving experiment which could cost them their lives?”
The union will be consulting with members about the impact on local jobs and the public service.
Mark Trask, UNISON branch secretary at Suffolk Constabulary said: “The announcement today is a devastating blow to our police staff, the police officers we support and the communities we serve.”
Those behind the proposals insist that improvements in technology will enable the control room to function to “operate across both counties seamlessly”.
In a report, to be discussed by the two forces’ chief constables and police and crime commissioners on Thursday, it is explained that Norfolk’s control room has been favoured above Suffolk’s due to the presence of a suitable fall back facility.
A second proposal to be discussed at the meeting will see back office functions, including HR, finance and IT, in the two counties pooled in one central resource centre in Suffolk.