Norfolk Constabulary Chief Constable Simon Bailey says his plan for the county’s police is ‘absolutely the right thing’ as he was questioned by the police and crime commissioner for Norfolk on Tuesday.
It was the first Police Accountability Forum meeting since the Chief Constable announced his plans to change the policing model – called Norfolk 2020 – with the Police and Crime Commissioner for Norfolk, Lorne Green, posing questions to Mr Bailey in Long Stratton.
The proposal includes the removal of the PCSO staff, 150 in total, and the closure of seven public enquiry offices and police stations – but an increase of 81 police officers.
Mr Bailey said the proposal was “innovative” and “bold” – and a way to tackle the changing face of crime.
He explained in the past 24 hours, his force would have had to deal with more sexual offences than break-ins in the county.
But he did concede there were some “really negative sides” to the plan.
You don’t save £30 million plus, with plans to save a further £10 million being developed, without having to significantly reduce the size of your workforceSimon Bailey, Chief Constable, Norfolk Constabulary
“I think I have made the case that we need a different workforce now. We face different challenges,” he said. “I think we are absolutely doing the right thing.
“We also understand that the demands we currently face continue to grow. By the way of an example, yesterday (Monday) we took 999 calls, which for the middle of November, that’s not far off summer time demand, and we are seeing that consistently within the control room.
“The world has just changed – and I need to ensure, as chief constable, we have an organisation, workforce and infrastructure that is fit for purpose and is able to meet that crime challenge.”
Mr Green asked whether the plan had grown from a “well-founded anxiety” in the past couple of years that budgets from central government would be ‘seriously slashed’.
“The fact is whilst we have already saved £30 million, we still have between 10 or 11 million more pounds to save,” Mr Bailey responded.
“And the bottom line is there are 200 fewer police officers currently on the streets at this moment in time. There are 110 fewer police community support officers on our streets at this moment in time.
“You don’t save £30 million plus, with plans to save a further £10 million being developed, without having to significantly reduce the size of your workforce.”
The subject of the police precept was also discussed.
Last year, it was raised by 1.99 per cent, – so a band D property currently pays £176.85 a year – a rise of 7p a week for those households.
Should Mr Green propose a police precept rise of two per cent or more in his next budget, it would go before the public in a referendum.
Mr Bailey said even if the police precept was raised by the maximum of 1.99 per cent each year for the next few years, it would not bridge the funding gap.
The Diss Express asked Mr Bailey what percentage rise he would like to see the police precept increase by – if the cap could be lifted.
“I would generally like to see the commissioner go out and consult with our communities, what our communities think is a reasonable sum of money,” he said.
“Do they want to see officers in schools? Do they want to see more uniformed officers on our streets? If they do, they need to understand it is going to cost more money. At this moment in time, even with a 1.99 per cent increase, I am simply still going to have to find savings.”
Mr Green said: “As of today, the maximum one can propose in the way of a tax increase is 1.99 per cent. Inflation is three per cent. Demand has gone up. That’s not treading water. That’s drowning.
“Nothing’s for free – we’re skint. I’m not going to say ‘do you want a zero per cent increase?’ because if two per cent is falling behind, what is zero going to do?
“The amount should be determined by what actually meets our real needs. We don’t just want to scoop up money.”