Police chief quells job axe fears

By Danielle NuttallCrime CorrespondentTHE Suffolk Chief Constable has issued a personal message to staff to quell fears of job losses as the force undertakes an efficiency review.

By Danielle Nuttall

Crime Correspondent

THE Suffolk Chief Constable has issued a personal message to staff to quell fears of job losses as the force undertakes an efficiency review.

Alastair McWhirter said Suffolk police's savings assessment was not about making “sweeping job cuts”, adding he was confident it could minimise the impact of any budget shortfall on staff.

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His comments were made in the force's monthly newsletter, which outlined its current funding problems and the need to make £1.5million savings next year.

Mr McWhirter said: “To set the record straight. The force strategic review, being carried out by Chief Superintendent Green, is aimed at ensuring we are working effectively and efficiently.

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“It is also about making sure we have got the right structures in place to support our strategic direction. It is not, and never has been, about making sweeping job cuts.

“I realise that all this work will be creating uncertainty within the force and that staff will naturally feel unsettled. However, we are still in the process of working through all these projects and no final decisions have been made at this stage.”

He added: “I recognise there are concerns within the workforce, but can assure people that I am involving the staff associations and Unison in the work.

“We are working together to manage the process of efficiency savings and the fact we started this process so early means I am confident we can minimise any impact on staff.”

To fund existing services, police forces need an increase of at least 5.5% from the Home Office.

But indications are that funding will only increase by 3% for 2005/06, leaving a £350m shortfall across the country - for Suffolk police alone, that equates to a shortfall of about £6m.

The force also has to make a further £1.5m cash efficiency savings in the coming year.

But Mr McWhirter said he was confident the force could minimise the effect of that shortfall through using reserves and managing the budget.

Last week, the Chief Constable and Graham Manuel, Suffolk Police Authority's vice-chairman, joined other police forces from across the country in lobbying the Government for more funding.

Mr McWhirter said: “The important thing for people to realise is that no concrete decisions on things such as the force review will be taken until November at the earliest.

“Even after this, there will be an implementation period of months, even years, if things get the backing of the force management.

“Similarly, we do not know what our budget for next year will be at this stage. The first indicative budget figures come out in November, but the final figures are not available until February 2005.”


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