Suffolk: Police control merger bid sparks concerns for lives and livelihoods

The force operations room at Martlesham, The force operations room at Martlesham,

Thursday, February 27, 2014
11:37 PM

Battle lines are drawn following a meeting to discuss moving Suffolk’s police control room to Norfolk.

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Future of policing:

Opening yesterday’s meeting Suffolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore stressed no decisions would be made on the future of Suffolk’s control room until a later date.

He said: “This is part of a journey. I can absolutely assure everybody no decision has been made and it certainly won’t happen in Suffolk unless I agree to it.

“We need to look at all the options before we can make any decisions. I would like to remind everybody that one of primary responsibilities is to deliver the Crime Plans – one in Norfolk, one in Suffolk.

“I personally take extremely seriously the social and economic impacts of the decisions we make.”

He added any decision made would not lead to a reduction in police performance and he was not prepared for Suffolk policing to be absorbed into a bigger force.

“I am not signing up to a regional approach. I don’t believe that is necessary. I was elected to look after Suffolk. “That is not there for negotiation as long as I am in this post. I am here to look after Suffolk.”

Suffolk’s Chief Constable Douglas Paxton told the meeting although large scale cost-cutting still needs to be made it was important to acknowledge the impact on staff, and decisions would not be taken lightly.

Addressing staff in the room he said: “We are sorry. We are sorry that we have to bring this recommendation. We understand we probably can’t fully know what sat in your hearts when you heard the news that the recommendation would be for pretty much a single site. Our commitment is to work with everyone involved and people are treated with maximum dignity and respect.”

A centralised centre is being considered by the need to cope with savage Government to police force grants brought on by the economic downturn.

It is estimated a combined control room would save £1.844million each year.

Suffolk is not said to be a cost-effective site for a centralised control room as it would cost too much to find a back-up facility if an emergency occurred. Norfolk does not have the same problem.

Suffolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore said he was sceptical about the proposals and remains to be convinced that merging controls rooms would be of benefit to the county’s residents.

Meanwhile, his Norfolk counterpart Stephen Bett is understood to be for the recommendations made by the chief constables of both counties.

Yesterday warnings of the danger a combined 999 command centre could pose were expressed during a public meeting of Norfolk and Suffolk’s Collaboration Panel at Martlesham police headquarters.

Politicians and staff railed against relocating the emergency control centre to Wymondham, or elsewhere in Norfolk.

More than 100 people attended the meeting. In addition to highlighting potential risks, workers told of the devastating impact losing their jobs would have. If the proposals are eventually agreed by Mr Passmore and Mr Bett, the transition would begin in spring next year. It is envisaged a combined control room would be fully operational by the autumn.

Yesterday, a 30-minute segment of the meeting was given to the views of staff and other public representatives.

Ipswich Borough Council leader David Ellesmere told the panel: “It is an experiment with the safety of the people in Suffolk. I think you should think very, very carefully about going down that route.”

Members of Unison, which represents many of the workers, and control room staff told of the hazards of moving the command and control centre away from Suffolk. They said it would mean people despatching officers from a location where they were unlikely to have local knowledge of Suffolk or persistent callers and offenders.

With many duplicate road names and villages such as Reydon and Raydon in Suffolk, speakers said the accumulated years of experience they had were vital in dealing with emergency calls.

The ambulance service control room’s move to Hellesdon, Norfolk, was held up as an example of the risks which could ensue following various incidents which have occurred.

Jane Basham, prospective parliamentary candidate for South Suffolk and former candidate for the county’s Police and Crime Commissioner, branded the promise of a public consultation on proposals a “sham consultation”.

She said: “It’s disappointing that we appear to be so far ahead and we are only now talking consultation. I believe any future consultation will be a sham consultation.”

Lisa Brown, a control room supervisor who has worked for Suffolk Constabulary for 30 years, spoke of how the despatchers and call takers shared a bond which would be decimated by losing their jobs.She said: “I was very proud to get my job in the control room. You would not just be ripping the heart out of Suffolk as a county, you would be ripping the heart out of a lot of people here.”

15 comments

  • Perhaps they should go one step forward and have one control room for England?

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    Mr Grumpy

    Friday, February 28, 2014

  • Look on the bright side, at least they are not talking about setting the control room up in India, yet.

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    2plus2equals5

    Friday, February 28, 2014

  • It make sense to combine the control rooms. Longer term there should be one common control room for all three services What the article does not say is that the HR , IT & Finances service when combined will be based in Suffolkj

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    BobE

    Friday, February 28, 2014

  • You could tell on BBC Norwich (Look East) last night that Norfolk PCC Stephen Bett was apoplectic because clearly he believed that this was a done deal.. that Suffolk had already sold out, and he had expected to be announcing it. In the Norfolk’s mind-set it is preposterous to image why Suffolk would not wish to relinquish control, and unthinkable that Norfolk should ? After all isn’t Norfolk in command of everything else in East Anglia, Suffolk is just South Norfolk isnt it !? Clearly Tim Passmore (Suffolk’s PCC) met with more resistance than he imagined and has had to play for time. Yet, the fight is far from won. With the East Anglian Daily Times launching a campaign today to fight for the control room to stay in Suffolk, it is imperative that everyone supports this battle, not only for the control room but to send a clear message that the one way surrender of Ipswich and Suffolk’s assets MUST STOP! And the best way to combat this erosion of Suffolk’s assets is for the county to empower and champion its own regional centre of Ipswich; to counter-balance the threat from Norwich & Norfolk.

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    Mark Ling

    Friday, February 28, 2014

  • JC@ The statistics contradict what you say. The Suffolk Fire & Rescue service is one of the most efficient in the UK There are no plans to replace Control room staff with unskilled staff that is pure invention on your part

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    BobE

    Friday, February 28, 2014

  • Question for EADT: How else do you propose that they save the money? It is a fact that Suffolk's control room cannot accommodate Norfolk so that is not an option. I don't want the control room to move to Norfolk but I would prefer that to the savings being made through reducing the number of cops. If this campaign is successful, the cuts will have to come from somewhere else. How can anyone with any sense back this campaign when they are not sighted on the alternatives?

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    Ellie

    Friday, February 28, 2014

  • @BobE obviously by efficiency you mean cost effective nothing to do with the way they deal with calls or life or death situations.If that matters to you then perhaps you can cling on to those statistics when appliances are sent to the wrong Reydon as has happened in the past. I never said anything about replacing Police Control Room Staff with unskilled staff perhaps you know more about this? However being on the receiving end the quality of the controllers and their knowledge at Fire and Rescue has dropped considerably .Half of them do not know what they are doing..You want another example of a p poor emergency control room ring up for an ambulance.

    Report this comment

    JC

    Monday, March 3, 2014

  • My original comment was originally rejected by the site moderators for reasons of "duplication". Not sure why, so thought I'd try again... Given the (rarely publicised) issues with moving the Fire Control this seems like a crazy idea to me. And I really do wonder why Suffolk Constabulary capitulate to Norfolk at every opportunity - the majority of IT services have already moved across; do people in power have such short memories, it was not long ago that Norfolk was a failing force whom the government had to pump a lot of money into and who still didn't' perform that well, whereas Suffolk were the best performing force of its size in the country. What is happening to this County? First fire control, various health services, and now the police. A large quantity of analysis was conducted when the Labour Govt of the time wanted to merge forces, and of all the options put forward, the least preferable was to work with Norfolk. Just goes to prove that there is no logic or reason applied to these decisions...

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    Emmy Lou

    Friday, February 28, 2014

  • Once we had an Ipswich control room staffed with police officers, who had walked the beat, had the local knowledge, knew the ciminal element, response was quick. A job that the soon to be 60 year old policeman would be suited to. Having experience of recent call to civilian staff with no such knowledge, who had to resort to a map, had it upside down, wasting dispatch time.! To hear of it going to Norfolk is a nonsense. Our firearms and traffic were gold standard, I hear now on the grapevine it is considered bronze. Our safety will be undermined...don't stand for it..protest.

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    waspie

    Saturday, March 1, 2014

  • @BobE much as it makes sense to combine the admin roles you start messing with your front line roles you end up with a pile of poo see Cambridge Fire + Rescue for details.These are highly qualified people dealing with life and death not telesales drones who act like they are on commission. Like I said see Suffolk Fire & Rescue Centre for details of how poor it can get.

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    JC

    Friday, February 28, 2014

  • ...telling them it would NOT be worth it...

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    Alice

    Friday, February 28, 2014

  • "Suffolk is not said to be a cost-effective site for a centralised control room as it would cost too much to find a back-up facility if an emergency occurred. Norfolk does not have the same problem" - why exactly? Does it cost twice as much to run a business from Suffolk? Rubbish! Will any services be left in Suffolk at all? The county will really end up being some powerless backwater living from handouts from Norwich is they carry on the way they are. It's a disgrace!

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    Scott Brock

    Friday, February 28, 2014

  • When are they going to start reviewing the number of Chief Officers, if you are combining all of your services surely it follows you will need less Chiefs? They have more now than they did before. Why do you need two Chiefs, two Deputies and so on?

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    blueinblue

    Friday, February 28, 2014

  • The ONLY reason this stupid idea is even being considered is because the tories do not want to TAX the rich of this country, they would far rather protect the 'bankers bonus' and their 'own incomes' from shares than INVEST in 'our' country !!

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    freedomf

    Friday, February 28, 2014

  • Our control room will go. Suffolk's IT services will be merged with Norfolk's [and probably Cambridge's too] despite three consultants telling them it would be worth it. Thgere are empires to build here, and financial good sense isn't going to be allowed to obstruct that!

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    Alice

    Friday, February 28, 2014

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

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