Suffolk: Police 999 centre could move to Norfolk

The Suffolk Constabulary headquarters in Martlesham Heath

The Suffolk Constabulary headquarters in Martlesham Heath

Suffolk’s police control room could be moved to Norfolk with the loss of about 70 jobs, it can be revealed.

If a joint centre based near Norwich is created, it will leave Suffolk without an emergency control room - 999 calls for the fire and ambulance services are already handled outside the county.

Civilian staff at Suffolk police headquarters at Martlesham are being briefed in one-to-one meetings today. The meetings are taking place ahead of a Norfolk and Suffolk Collaboration Panel at Martlesham police headquarters on Thursday.

The constabularies’ hierarchy will be discussing proposals for the future structure of the two forces’ emergency call centres at the meeting, which is open to the public.

Although it has been stressed no decisions have been made, it has raised the threat of Norfolk-based staff despatching Suffolk officers from a centralised command and control room based at Wymondham, near Norwich.

Should a decision eventually be made to base a joint police control centre in Norfolk it would mean that all three emergency services covering Suffolk are despatched by call takers from outside of the county.

The county’s fire service control room was moved to Cambridgeshire in a merger on October 2011. The ambulance service’s call centre is based in Hellesdon, Norfolk.

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Those changes went ahead despite fears being raised that a lack of local knowledge among control room staff could lead to life-threatening delays in Suffolk.

Among those attending Thursday’s Collaboration Panel meeting to discuss the future of the control rooms in Wymondham and Martlesham will be Suffolk Police and Crime commissioner Tim Passmore and his Norfolk counterpart Stephen Bett.

Also due to attend are the Suffolk’s Chief Constable Douglas Paxton and Norfolk’s chief Simon Bailey, along with other members of their senior management teams.

It is understood other ‘back office’ functions could also be affected by the continuing collaboration. It follows cuts to Government grants which began in 2010.

Speaking ahead of today’s briefings, Mr Passmore said: “The meeting on Thursday is not a decision-making body. We are awaiting constabulary papers so I can have a look at them and study the proposals.

“There are various options being worked up. None of those will happen until the police and crime commissioners agree.

“I am concerned about the potential impact on people’s livelihoods and jobs. I need to be convinced that whatever decisions need to be made are in the best interests of Suffolk. Yes, there are budgetary pressures, but we need to make sure whatever recommendations there are, are resilient and effective.”

A Suffolk Constabulary spokeswoman said: “Meetings have been arranged on Monday with our staff to ensure they can be directly updated on these matters ahead of any wider publication as we consider it important they are informed first.

“Therefore it would be inappropriate for us to comment any further at this time.”

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