Essex: Mounted police unit to be axed - again

ESSEX Police is once again set to axe its mounted section – just four years after it spent around �250,000 reinstating it.

The unit was first cut in 1999 but then brought back in 2008, with the significant investment in new facilities at its Writtle base.

Essex Police has now informed the Essex Police Authority of its proposal to once again disband the unit, to commence formal consultation with affected staff and to inform officers.

Chief Constable Jim Barker-McCardle said a final paper, containing details of the financial matters arising from the mounted section proposal, will go to the Essex Police Authority finance and audit committee later in the year.

He said: “Essex Police is committed to providing the best and most effective policing service possible to our communities.

“In these times of unprecedented financial pressures, the force is faced with very hard choices, and the proposal to disband the mounted section is made with great reluctance.”

A combination of cuts in grants and other unavoidable financial pressures mean that Essex Police has to make recurring revenue savings of �42.2million by 2014/15.

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To achieve this, the force is faced with “very difficult” decisions and has already made significant reductions in the number of officer and staff posts, as well as significant non-pay savings.

The section consists of nine police officers, two police staff and eight horses and, if the section was to remain, Essex Police would have to cut up to 14 frontline police officer posts to make the equivalent savings.

The proposal is now subject to formal consultation with affected police staff. Implementation would commence in September 2012.The force will make annual savings of around �600,000 as a result.

Retired chief superintendent Mick Thwaites, who is running as independent candidate for the Essex Police and Crime Commissioner role, said it appeared that the mounted section was quickly becoming a “political football”.

He said: “It was only a few years ago that the mounted unit was brought back. About �250,000 was spent on bringing the stables at Writtle up to scratch and all the other expense for training officers, sourcing horses and so on, will now have been completely wasted.

“If anyone believes they are just a pony club for trotting around pleasant parts of Essex, nothing could be further from the truth.”

“Perhaps they don’t detect as much crime or nick as many villains as beat officers, but should we judge police work on this narrow band of government-driven meaningless stats. We should judge it on what makes the pubic feel safe.”

If the unit is disbanded, the horses will be transferred to another force or re-homed.

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