Recession halts police jobs push

RADICAL plans to dramatically increase the number of frontline police officers patrolling the streets of Essex have been put on hold for at least 18 months, the county's chief constable has told the EADT.

Roddy Ashworth

RADICAL plans to dramatically increase the number of frontline police officers patrolling the streets of Essex have been put on hold for at least 18 months, the county's chief constable has told the EADT.

The pledge to drive up the number of bobbies on the beat formed a central part of Operation Apex, a major commitment to improving policing in Essex that was announced in 2008.

The plan was to increase the number of frontline officers in the county by 600 by 2013.

This would be done by making large efficiency savings, merging some back office functions with neighbouring forces, partnership working with other agencies and sponsorship.

So far the Apex programme has created a further 239 frontline posts in Essex Police.

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But chief constable Jim Barker-McCardle told the EADT that in the current recession it would not be possible to continue increasing the number of officers.

Instead, savings made through Operation Apex would be used to avoid having to cut the number of frontline police already in place.

“The Apex programme was always about the ambition for policing in Essex, which was to drive crime down and tackle anti-social behaviour,” Mr Barker-McCardle said.

“One of the important ways of doing that was increasing the number of officers.

“Operation Apex was an ambition and a programme of work conceived and started before the recession. Now we are seeing big hits on public sector budgets.

“Certainly over the next 18 months to two years I do not think we will grow extra officers through the Apex programme.”

Mr Barker-McCardle said he hoped it would be possible to return to the policy of expanding the number of frontline officers in the future.

He added that plans to restructure the force's back office operations - likely to lead to a significant number of redundancies among support workers - would continue.

“The Apex programme has to carry on, because we have never needed it more,” he said.

“We are at a time when some police forces are suggesting that the cuts might mean a reduction in the number of frontline officers.

“I will do everything in my power to make sure that does not happen in Essex.

“The Apex programme has to work hard to make sure the number of frontline officers does not get affected by the recession,” he said.

He added that it was too early to say how much money would be saved with the re-structuring of back office operations, which could see the merging of some departments with neighbouring Kent Police.

And he said it was not yet possible to speculate on the number of jobs that might be lost in Essex.

Essex Police has already begun a voluntary redundancy scheme for non-frontline staff.

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