Suffolk: Fears over cuts to police force

SUFFOLK: Suffolk Constabulary has refuted claims that slashing 200 police officer posts over an eight-year period will impact on smaller towns and villages.

The force is aiming to shed officer numbers by nearly 15 per cent by 2015 compared with 2007, to compensate for a �13.5million budget shortfall.

Speaking about the cuts, one officer said: “Towns like Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds tend to swallow up all the officers.

“If you are short of numbers, they are going to be used to police the big towns and without a shadow of a doubt the smaller towns are not going to be covered well at all.

“However much it is said that it (the reduction in numbers) won’t affect the public, it will affect them.”

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On January 1 this year Suffolk Constabulary had 1,258 officers on its payroll. In 2007 there were 1,358.

The police authority will meet on Friday to discuss the probability of losing a further 100 officers over the next four years.

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It will also discuss the possibility of allowing the implementation of the controversial Regulation A19. This gives constabularies the power to compulsorily retire officers with 30 years’ service.

At present 133 officers are due to reach that landmark by 2014/15.

The detailed effects of budget cuts announced by the government last year have still to be determined. However, one concern is specialist teams could be affected by the need to maintain the number of emergency call response officers.

Mick Richardson, secretary of Suffolk Police Federation, said: “If A19 is applied then clearly there will be fewer police officers available to deliver the service that the constabulary is required to deliver. Some stark choices may have to be made. That is the reality of the spending cuts.

“What the organisation should be able to provide and what the public expects may not be the same thing.”

Deputy Chief Constable Jacqui Cheer re-affirmed the force’s commitment to its emergency call response, and said: “Suffolk Constabulary and Suffolk Police Authority have to find at least �13.5m in savings over the next four years, of which �10m needs to be found in the next two financial years.

“As over 80pc of our budget relates to people, it is inevitable reductions of this magnitude over a short period of time will mean we have to reduce the numbers of officers and police staff.

“We are committed to ensuring that the savings we make have minimal impact on frontline policing. Neighbourhood policing across the county will not be affected.”

n What do you think of these proposals? E-mail evening or write to Star Letters, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN.

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