Suffolk: Chief Constable outlines risks of merged police control room and how he would combat them

Chief Constable Douglas Paxton Chief Constable Douglas Paxton

Saturday, April 26, 2014
10:00 AM

Suffolk’s Chief Constable has outlined the potential risks to the public of moving Suffolk’s police control centre to Norfolk.

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However, Douglas Paxton has also detailed how any hazards would be limited if the controversial proposal is given the go-ahead.

The concept has been put forward as Suffolk and Norfolk police need to find combined savings of £36.7m by March 2018. Suffolk’s shortfall is £16.4m. More than 100 posts in Suffolk’s control room would be put in jeopardy by any merger.

Mr Paxton outlined the business case for the move, which he and Norfolk’s Chief Constable Simon Bailey have recommended to the counties’ police and crime commissioners, ahead of a top-level meeting next week.

Although there has been a public backlash against the proposal Mr Paxton said he is confident if the merger goes ahead it would not put residents in the county at risk. A merger would reap an estimated saving of £1.84million a year.

On Wednesday the two chief constables along with Suffolk and Norfolk’s Police and Crime Commissioners Tim Passmore and Stephen Bett will discuss the proposals further at a Norfolk and Suffolk Collaboration Panel meeting in Wymondham.

Mr Paxton has warned “significant experienced staff” are likely to leave the constabulary leaving the location not chosen to host the control centre, most likely Martlesham, short of trained workers. This would have detrimental impact on the service and increased overtime costs.

However, he added a contingency has been put in place.

In addition there is a high risk of some staff becoming disaffected by the change, leading to an adverse impact on morale and performance. There is also the possibility of a legal challenge or industrial action.

It is hoped the potential for this could be managed through continued consultation.

Another issue is Norfolk and Suffolk constabularies operate their local policing models differently which could lead to inconsistences in the service provided from a central site.

The terms of a project to harmonise working practices are currently being prepared to negate this.

There are also fears changes in senior management personnel could lead to a lack of consistency and continuity during a complex and intensive period of change.

Additionally there is a risk a significant percentage of staff may not choose to move to the merged centre, leading to an urgent recruitment drive. The worst case scenario predicts such a change could lead to between 45% and 54% of staff in any centralised 999 centre being newly-trained personnel.

Mr Paxton stated work is under way to encourage experience personnel to move across and help smooth out any transition.

Mr Bett is known to be in favour of a combined control room, but Mr Passmore is more sceptical of the benefits to Suffolk. Both men need to agree before any merger could go ahead.

Earlier this month Mr Paxton confronted fears that any loss of local knowledge by moving the control room to Norfolk would put residents’ safety at risk.

He said: “I would not have put forward the recommendation unless I felt it was worthy of consideration.

“We (the chief constables of Suffolk and Norfolk) concluded that we can deliver this (merger) safely. In doing so we would use a mixture of technology.

“The chances of getting confused about Acacia Avenue in Ipswich and Acacia Avenue in Norwich are very remote.”

12 comments

  • What would Mr Paxton know about what Suffolk needs? I'm sure once he has sold his force down the river he'll retire with his fat pension and not give the people who serve us the Suffolk people another thought. I thought the police were there to serve and that includes you Mr Paxton. I pay my community tax to Suffolk council so the least I expect is to have it spent in this county.

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    Nige...

    Sunday, April 27, 2014

  • Should be fighting to keep it in Suffolk, where's the backbone, sounds like a half hearted attitude to me.

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    waspie

    Sunday, April 27, 2014

  • Combining the Control rooms is sensible and will improve efficiency and reduce costs. It is happening across the UK. Scotland has moved to a single police force and has combined control rooms resulting in a much improved service. The argument about local knowledge is just daft. Do you think the current control room staff know every town , village and hamlet and street. It is just nonsense to claim that. The calls will still go to local station that will have more detailed local knowledge but modern technology largely negates the need

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    BobE

    Sunday, April 27, 2014

  • Local knowledge is paramount , with mobile phones you cant tell the area people are calling from so mistakes are bound to happen with villages etc with the same names in both counties .Unfortunately it will probably take someone to die before anyone listens

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    diddy

    Sunday, April 27, 2014

  • Careful what you wish for. Suffolk Police have to save a small fortune and it will end up coming from frontline cops if we don't take these opportunities. A local control room is no use if there are no cops out there to send to our calls. What would you rather have?

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    Johno

    Saturday, April 26, 2014

  • Martlesham control room don't seem to know where the river Deben is unless you can give a postcode. I don't think a Norfolk control room would be any worse!

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    meltonian

    Saturday, April 26, 2014

  • So the article highlight all some of the possible risks (except the obvious one of local knowledge), but none of his proposals to combat them except two. A contingency for additional overtime so spending money to save money = less savings. Also they are going to encourage staff to move, to Wymondham when currently working in Martlesham, I make that at least an hours commute every day or are they going to pay them relocation so again reducing any savings.

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    A Smith

    Saturday, April 26, 2014

  • Great, sounds like Mr Paxton has already thrown in the towel - thanks a lot

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    gwil

    Saturday, April 26, 2014

  • John- I think you will find they do not own the helicopter, they just hire it by the hour. There was an article in the EADT recently about how much Suffolk paid for its use. Norfolk do the same.

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    The original Victor Meldrew

    Saturday, April 26, 2014

  • If Scotland votes in independence we might be able to send him back and then have our own control room still .

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    pandy

    Saturday, April 26, 2014

  • john they do already You want a p poor service just call Cambridge Fire +Rescue and see what you get nowadays.

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    JC

    Saturday, April 26, 2014

  • crazy idea, you need local knowledge for maximum efficiency especially when dealing with critical 999 situations.........If Suffolk needs to save money, sell the noisy helicopter and share another one with another area.

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    john

    Saturday, April 26, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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