Police cuts planned for Norfolk

The number of police officers in Norfolk is set to be slashed by 165 as the full extent of planned cuts begins to emerge.A set of proposals has been drawn up outlining how the force will meet an expected �10m funding gap in the coming year.

The number of police officers in Norfolk is set to be slashed by 165 as the full extent of planned cuts begins to emerge.

A set of proposals has been drawn up outlining how the force will meet an expected �10m funding gap in the coming year. The largest share of the savings, �4.1m, will come from an expected reduction in the county's officer headcount by 10pc by 2012 as departing officers are not replaced.

The move will undo more than three years of work to increase frontline strength in the county, recently peaking at 1,650. This increase of uniforms on the beat has long been held up as a symbol of Norfolk's high performance.

Police authority chairman Stephen Bett had warned it would be a struggle to protect the existing level of service but this is the first confirmation that the number of bobbies will fall.

Representatives of the rank and file said that, while cuts were inevitable, there was a danger that an expected rise in crime brought about by the economic crisis would result in an increased workload for a shrinking police service.

The Police Federation fears that emergency response teams could be worst hit as officers are diverted towards other duties.

Most Read

It comes days after the Chief Inspector of Constabulary warned that big cuts to police budgets could harm the ability of forces in England and Wales to combat crime.

Norfolk Police Federation chairman Malcolm Sneesby said: “We must protect our core services and public safety comes first. The minimum the public expects is to be able to dial 999 and have an officer arrive on their doorstep.

“If we are not doing that but we have officers working in other roles, then we will be letting the public down.”

Officers cannot be made redundant but the reduction will be achieved through natural wastage with those who retire or leave for other reasons not being replaced. Roughly 80 officers leave Norfolk police each year.

Chief constable Phil Gormley is not expected to comment on the cuts until the outcome of the government's comprehensive spending review is published.

Chris Harding, chief executive of Norfolk Police Authority, said there would be a need to balance the reduction across departments to ensure that particular areas of policing did not suffer disproportionately.

The force has also earmarked a �1m saving from civilian redundancies. About 100 civilian posts have already been cut in recent years. A paper, dubbed the business support review, has been prepared setting out when the axe will fall and is currently being considered by senior managers.

It is hoped that as many functions as possible will be shared between Norfolk and Suffolk meaning that, while jobs will be lost, a comparable level of service can be offered. A fur-ther �450,000 will be saved by reducing the number of police community support officers from 280 to 253.

Mr Sneesby said: “The force has just come through a major reorgan-isation so you would hope to avoid undergoing structural change again. That said, it could be unavoidable and if that's the case it needs to be holistic, not just patching over gaps.

“This may mean starting from scratch to make the most of the services we offer. All areas of policing are valuable, but the absolute focus has to be on our response service and that hasn't always been the priority in the past.”

He added that it would be preferable for areas such as safer neighbourhood teams and protective services, which covers offences such as hate crime and domestic violence, to be reduced in favour of maintaining response teams.

Mr Bett was unavailable for comment yesterday, but has previously said that safer neighbourhood teams and protective services were “key to operational policing” and must be protected.

The report, which will be considered by the police authority next week, also includes details of a freeze on new building projects, although the EDP understands long-term plans to replace Norwich's Bethel Street police station and the main stations in Great Yarmouth and King's Lynn could still go ahead as they would lead to future savings.

The future of Norfolk police's helicopter is under review - a potential saving of �400,000. This is likely to see neighbouring forces sharing a helicopter in anticipation of a nationwide air support service being launched.

Section managers have also been ordered to identify savings, amoun-ting to �1.4m across all departments, by examining how to work more efficiently.