Concerns voiced over police numbers in west Suffolk
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Concerns have been raised over the number of police officers allocated to serve the west of Suffolk compared with other parts of the county.
The fears were raised during Friday’s meeting of Suffolk’s Police and Crime Panel, where West Suffolk Council representative James Lay highlighted that Newmarket Town Council felt it needed to fund its own PCSO (police community support officer).
“I am very conscious about where money is spent across the whole county, and I don’t believe in the west of the county we are supported as well as the east of the county. I may be wrong, but that is the feeling that I get and my council gets,” the Newmarket West ward councillor said.
“We are paying for a PCSO £34,000 a year out of Newmarket’s budget. We welcome the PCSO – he is doing a grand job on behalf of Newmarket and the last thing we would want is to lose him.
“I don’t believe this is a situation which is fair and especially when you look at the fact [Suffolk Constabulary] have underspent £250,000 that we should be putting our hands in our own pockets when money could be spent better somewhere else.”
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Cuts outlined in 2018 saw the number of PCSOs reduced from 81 to 48, with six of the 48 being funded by town, parish or district councils.
Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore back then refused to sign off on the budget if any more were cut, and said that efforts in the ongoing Operation Uplift had been helping put officers back into the west district.
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Mr Passmore said: “There are half a dozen free-funded PCSOs, including in Newmarket, which we are very grateful for.
“As regards officer strength it is true to say when I first started [ the PCC role in 2012] I do think the west area did not have sufficient police officers in comparison to particularly Ipswich and to a lesser extent the East.
“If you look at Operation Uplift and the extra 170 officers we get over three years, last year west had by far the biggest number of officers allocated to it.
“There is a recognition of the fact that the west’s population is expanding very very rapidly indeed.
“Everybody pays their taxes the same as everybody else. I am not looking for absolute parity because it is based on crime profiles, but I want to reassure you that is being addressed properly.
“The west is just as important as the north, the south, or the east, and we will continue that.”
The Government’s Operation uplift programme aims to help strengthen officer numbers across the country, to the tune of 20,000 new recruits, while Suffolk’s 6.7% council tax increase this year – around 30p extra per week – has helped fund 25 new officers and 26 police staff this year.
It means that by the end of the financial year Suffolk should have around 1,330 officers – the highest number since at least 2012.