‘I have not given up hope of Suffolk police control room merger’, says Norfolk Police and Crime Commissioner
PUBLISHED: 08:52 14 April 2015 | UPDATED: 08:52 14 April 2015
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Cash-strapped Suffolk and Norfolk Constabularies could yet be forced into merging their control rooms, claimed one of the counties’ police chiefs.
Last year a proposal by the forces’ respective Chief Constables Douglas Paxton and Simon Bailey to combine their 999 centres, probably at Wymondham, was quashed when Suffolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Tim Passmore ruled out any merger.
The concept was backed by Norfolk’s PCC Stephen Bett who, along with his Chief Constable Mr Bailey, expressed his disappointment with Mr Passmore’s stance.
Despite this Mr Bett feels it is likely to be only a matter of time before the vexed question is back on the agenda.
Both constabularies have to make multi-million pound savings over the next five years. Suffolk alone faces budget cuts of £20.5million by 2020.
Mr Passmore refuted any suggestion of not seeing the bigger picture and stressed his decision was based on the strength of the case put forward.
He also did not rule out that one day his view might change providing he was convinced a joint control room was in the interest of Suffolk residents.
Yesterday Mr Bett said: “I am still hoping we will get our control rooms together. We should have done it when we had the opportunity.
“I believe Suffolk’s equipment is getting fairly old now and there will come a time when we need to be more strategic in our thinking and combine our control rooms.”
Referring to Mr Passmore’s entrenched position that a merger was not in the interests of Suffolk Mr Bett said: “The parochial attitude that counties can do everything on their own is nonsense – total nonsense. It was never going to hold water at all in the medium to long-term.
“I can see in the future that we will have one or two control rooms for the whole of the eastern region because it is the way to go.
“We will need to have more like-thinking people taking the decisions and not be parochial, looking at our own little area and forgetting the bigger thinking outside our area.”
Mr Bett felt withdrawing from a combined two-county control room last year was “ridiculous”, and even if Suffolk had a “magic pot of money” to build a new one why would it.
However, on a positive note he believed other forces in the region could benefit from the collaboration which has taken place over the last few years between Suffolk and Norfolk.
In rebuttal Mr Passmore said: “I was elected in November 2012 to put the interests of Suffolk first, above and beyond any narrow partisan or political dimension.
“I have tried very hard to do that and will continue to do that.
“I have absolutely no doubt the decision to base a control room in Wymondham would have been wrong for Suffolk in the longer term.
“This was nothing to do with being parochial. It was to do with looking at what opportunities for the future there were to ensure Suffolk is in control of its own destiny.”
Mr Passmore said if the situation changed he would look at what the options were.
He added: “The case was definitely not made last time. I would need a vast amount of convincing that this would be the right way to proceed.”
Mr Passmore has consistently said his preferred vision would be for each county to have a control room where all its blue light services were under one roof, rather than centralised regionally.
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