Police to merge West Norfolk safer neighbourhood area panels

Candidates for the Norfolk County Council Elections May 2013 ENGANL00120130426152949
Candidates for the Norfolk County Council Elections May 2013 ENGANL00120130426152949
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Police chiefs have been criticised over plans to reform the meetings where residents can raise issues of concern with local officers.

It was confirmed yesterday that the nine Safer Neighbourhood Action Panels (SNAPs) which currently operate across West Norfolk are to be merged into three larger bodies.

Candidates for the Norfolk County Council Elections May 2013 ENGANL00120130424154734

Candidates for the Norfolk County Council Elections May 2013 ENGANL00120130424154734

The first of the new meetings, which are led by police and borough councillors, will take place in Lynn, Hunstanton and Downham next week.

And officers say the larger panels will be able to examine a wider range of issues.

But Gaywood councillor John Collop told Thursday’s West Norfolk Council meeting that residents in his area were unhappy at the move.

He said: “I think it’s a backward move and I’m sorry the police feel they can’t support them.

“They are effective and members of the public feel they are making a contribution to the community.”

Under the proposals, three panels, which will all meet for the first time next Monday, August 10, at 7pm, will replace the previous bodies.

One panel, which will meet at the Olive Branch cafe in Lynn’s Hillington Square, will cover the former King’s Lynn North, Gaywood Fairstead and Reffley and South and West Lynn panel areas.

A meeting to be held at the Downham town hall will cover the Downham, Terrington and Watlington neighbourhood areas.

And issues in the old Hunstanton and Burnham, Dersingham and Gayton and the Woottons areas will be examined by the panel which is due to meet at the Way Christian Fellowship in Downs Close, Hunstanton.

Officers said yesterday that the move had been made in response to the rise of residents raising issues with officers via social media.

Sgt Jamie Johnston, of Lynn police, said: “We want SNAP meetings to be occasions where any and all residents in West Norfolk area can let us know of any issues in their community.

“By reducing the number of SNAP neighbourhoods, the meetings will be more inclusive to all residents and able to touch upon a wider range of topics and subjects.

“We’re keen for people to raise their concerns via social media but we would still encourage residents to come along to SNAP meetings to meet local police officers and let them know what issues they consider to be important.”

Brian Long, the borough councillor’s portfolio holder for environment, said yesterday: “With increasing demands on the Police and Council the review is a natural progression.

“Reducing the number of SNAPs is a fundamental step that will help each area become more effective because our resources will be more focused.

“Some SNAP meetings have been really successful and we want to continue this success with the new, more focused structure.”

During Thursday’s full council meeting, Mr Long revealed he had been in talks with police about the issue before May’s elections.

He said officers had initially sought to create a single panel for the whole borough.

And he admitted he was not sure if the new arrangement would be satisfactory

But he added: “The idea is the existing areas will have the same representation.

“There will still be area chairmen and, on a rotation basis, each of those will take the chair, so I still see there being input from and representation from the different localities.”

Mr Long also revealed he had raised concerns about the proposals with the county’s police and crime commissioner, Stephen Bett, but he had said he felt it was an “operational matter” for the police.

However, Mr Collop said the idea should have been discussed more widely before being implemented.

He said: “I have a problem that more people weren’t consulted.

“I’ve had people ring me saying they’re not happy it will be one King’s Lynn panel.”