Austerity cuts forcing Suffolk police to compromise

Suffolk police want to hear your views

Suffolk police want to hear your views - Credit: Archant � 2005

As part of an ongoing series outlining the changing face of policing in the county today we focus on Suffolk Constabulary’s local policing review.

Superintendent Jenny Powell

Superintendent Jenny Powell - Credit: Archant

Crime correspondent Colin Adwent reports.

Suffolk is undergoing a watershed in the way the county will be policed in the future.

Its traditional way of working is having to be radically altered, not only by the fast-paced changing landscape of modern-day crime, but also by the unprecedented cutbacks to its budget which means it must slash £20.5million off its outgoings by 2020.

It is a time of transformation and change which has forced the constabulary’s hand in having to adapt and even compromise in aspects of the way it works.

A Suffolk Local Policing Review is currently taking place with the aim of developing ideas with staff, partners and communities to re-design the way in which the constabulary polices the county.

It is the most significant overhaul of policing in Suffolk for many years.

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Senior personnel are endeavouring to ensure local policing can service priorities such as child sexual exploitation, cyber-crime, mental health and domestic violence.

Policing roles across Suffolk, including safer neighbourhood teams and specialist services, are being examined to look at the work they carry out every day, where they are based, how they are constructed and what they deliver.

The aim is to understand how this can be made even more efficient.

The review is being carried out in two parts.

Phase One, which commenced in October 2014, is now complete and has resulted in the identification of £3.3m in savings through reductions in officer posts from the County Policing Command (CPC).

Eighty-three posts are to be removed from the organisation by March 2016.

Twenty of these will be taken from joint areas with Norfolk Police and 63 will be taken from the CPC.

Four workstreams were established with the aim of identifying where teams could be re-organised to realise savings and remove the 63 Suffolk posts.

Business cases have been created after extensive consultation with affected teams and with Tim Passmore, the Police and Crime Commissioner.

Seventy-one officer posts are to be removed. This allowed eight new posts to be created in the Protecting Vulnerable People directorate to respond to the significant growth of demand in this area.

The reductions are to be achieved through the natural turnover of staff and re-alignment of roles.

The posts to be removed from the organisation have been identified following extensive role-profiling and an analysis of demand to understand how teams can be re-structured without affecting services.

Phase Two of the review will focus on transformational work.

This includes identifying long-term changes to service that are intended to result not only in savings but in improvements for communities.

The Suffolk Change Team recently conducted an extensive demand analysis exercise to capture the variety of demands placed on the organisation over a set period.

The aim was to understand where resources are used, the amount of time spent dealing with a range of crime categories and the patterns of calls for service.

The results of the exercise will be used to inform the planning and re-design of our services.

Plans under Phase Two are expected to make savings of £5m and work will be carried out in four areas:

• Community Contact (including the Contact and Control Room and Public Access)

• Neighbourhood Teams (including Safer neighbourhood Teams, Community Safety and Operational Partnership Teams)

• Investigations (all crime and non-crime investigations across the CPC)

• Emergency Response.

The following savings are anticipated:

• A review of our Neighbourhood Teams is expected to realise circa £3m savings.

• A review of public access is expected to save circa £350k.

• A review of investigations departments, with reductions of between 5% and 15% of current staff budget being profiled.

• The emergency response function will be reviewed once other changes have been embedded across the organisation.

Despite having fewer officers and having to make cuts, while changing the way it works Suffolk Constabulary maintains it is seeing the current positions not only as a challenge, but also as an opportunity.

Superintendent Jenny Powell, who is leading the Change Team, said: “There is no doubt that this is a challenging time, but it is also an exciting time for us to fully review the way that we work and identify ways that we can improve.

“We know that we have to reduce the number of posts we currently have, which means that the way our policing teams are set up around Suffolk will no longer work in the long term.

“The challenge for us now is to obtain a full understanding of the demand we face, the work carried out by these teams at present, and how we can continue to service this with reduced numbers.

“A raft of initiatives are being introduced across the organisation to help achieve the savings target, and we are working to ensure that all of the workstreams identified complement each other to result in efficient and effective working practices.

“This is particularly pertinent because we are experiencing different types of crime and demand on our services, with an increase in on-line criminal activity and offences that take place behind ‘closed doors’ such as domestic violence, child sexual exploitation and human trafficking.

“These types of offences are affecting all communities across Suffolk.

“Therefore, we have to deploy our resources in the most effective way to deal with this wider threat, harm and risk and to support our vulnerable communities, alongside our wider visibility and engagement activities.

“We have always prided ourselves on the links we have with Suffolk’s communities and Neighbourhood Policing is a key part of our future redesign.

“We are reviewing the mix of police officers and police community support officers to ensure we continue to deliver an efficient and effective service for our communities in light of changing demand and local priorities.

“We are working with staff, local people and our partners to make sure that any changes we make continue to provide a high level of service.

“We are really keen to hear the views of the people we serve so a range of consultation opportunities are being made available.

“An online survey is currently available on our website to gather views on crime, anti-social behaviour and policing; a web chat and social media evening will be held later this month and the Chief Constable and Police and Crime Commissioner will be visiting town centres throughout the summer holidays to speak with local people.

“I would encourage all to have their say.”

How would you re-design policing? Policing teams across the county are being re-designed to achieve savings. What aspect of your local policing service do you think is essential in your community? Visit Suffolk Constabulary Official Page on Facebook to give your view.