Police cuts ‘will not harm service to public’

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MULTI-MILLION pound cuts to Northumbria Police will not affect front-line policing in rural Northumberland, the Gazette has been told.

The authority is facing unprecedented funding cuts and needs to make budget savings in excess of £57million over the next three years and £17.7million of that will be from the 2011/12 budget.

The cuts include 835 posts, 450 of which will be made in the coming year. However, it is expected that 318 police officers will retire having reached 30 years’ service. There have already been 365 requests for voluntary redundancy.

But members of the community will not see a reduction in the number of police officers on their streets and Temporary Chief Constable Sue Sim said she recognised the public wanted to see her officers out and about.

She said: “Despite the challenges, our core priorities remain the same – to reduce crime and disorder and to deliver an excellent service to our communities. I am committed to protecting, as far as possible, front-line policing and to maintaining the numbers of response and neighbourhood officers, including CSO Patrol.

“To meet these challenges we need to change fundamentally the way we deliver our service to ensure we offer value for money without compromising our high standards.”

She added: “The rural communities and their local issues are really important to us. These communities speak to neighbourhood officers and we have to be able to react to whatever they are saying.”

At a budget meeting yesterday, members of Northumbria Police and Northumbria Police Authority agreed a package of measures to achieve the savings.

These also include scrutinising non-pay-related expenditure throughout the force and making savings on support services and Police Authority budgets.

Councillor Mick Henry, Chair of Northumbria Police Authority, said after the meeting: “It’s with a heavy heart that we make these decisions and not something that was taken lightly.

“With the stuff that is going on at the minute with cuts and redundancies, it’s more important than ever that everybody gets the message that that will not happen here.

“We can improve our police service, we have a very challenging time and are changing our business process to make sure that we give the policing that people have told us they want.”

Temporary Chief Constable Sim added that police volunteers such as the scheme pinoeered in Rothbury could be used elsewhere in the force.

“I am always looking for people to volunteer to work with us,” she said. “Be it in an office like in Rothbury where the community want to work with the police or as a special constable. But that is not at the expense of the uniformed officers out there policing the streets.”

Asked about the Raoul Moat operation in Rothbury she said the force would ‘absolutely’ be able to cope if another situation arose.

She also said there were no plans to close Alnwick Police Station now that the court is being closed.