The chief constable of Norfolk Police has insisted the force will continue to provide an effective service, despite fears over the potential impact of forthcoming funding cuts.
Senior officers announced a review of how police work is carried out in the county amid the expectation of up to 40 per cent reductions in the force’s budget.
Chief constable Simon Bailey has admitted that the cuts would lead to job losses, though he said he couldn’t say how many. And he conceded there would be some aspects of current police work that officers would not be able to do in the future.
He said: “We currently have crime scene investigators that will visit you if you have a theft from a motor vehicle or a theft from a shed. It may be we won’t be able to afford that type of response.”
But, although he admits the cuts will force them to look at even more ways of collaborating with other police forces and emergency service organisations, he dismissed suggestions the reductions may make the current county-based police model unsustainable as “wide of the mark”.
He said: “We will continue to deliver a highly effective service, but it will look and feel different.”
He said that only 20 per cent of the force’s work is now focused on dealing with crime.
He also pointed out the force was now responding to emergency calls faster than ever before and reaching record numbers of calls requiring a response within one hour. The Government is expected to announce just how much police funding will be reduced by over the coming years in November.
The Norfolk force has already identified more than £17 million worth of savings over the past four years, but needs to find a further £9 million even before any new cuts are taken into account.
Earlier this year, the county’s police and crime commissioner, Stephen Bett, secured support for a near two per cent increase in the police’s portion of the council tax.
And, during a parish council meeting, Norfolk’s new chief fire officer, Roy Harold, said an average of 50p a week more on council tax bills would maintain his service in its current form.
Mr Bailey did not offer a similar figure in relation to the police service.
But he confirmed he would be pushing for further tax increases in an effort to minimise the number of job cuts.
He added: “Our staff are our greatest asset and I want to keep that.”
The force announced its intention to launch an internal review, Norfolk 2020, to seek both officers’ views on how they believe the force should be shaped in the future. A public survey has also been set up.
The review is being led by Mr Bailey’s deputy, Charlie Hall. Initial recommendations are expected to be presented to senior officers in December.
Mr Bailey said work to share services with the Suffolk force had helped to protect the front line in recent years.
But he said the continuing financial challenge meant that “difficult questions” about the structure of the force now have to be answered. He added: “When 82 per cent of the budget is salaries, it gives us very little room to find that money through other means.”
The Norfolk and Suffolk forces are working with University Campus Suffolk (UCS) to carry out the online survey of public views of police services.
The survey will remain open until early November, although Mr Bailey said he would seek to extend it if large numbers were still taking part at that stage.
He also pledged that the views expressed in it would be taken into account as plans for the future are drawn up.
To take part, visit www.surveymonkey.com/r/nor folksuffolksurvey.
Further information about the survey can also be found online at www.ucs.ac.uk/com munitysafetysurvey