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Friday, 19 September 2014

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Funding cuts will see neighbourhood policing teams slashed

Funding cuts are likely to prompt another slash in the number of neighbourhood police teams in Cumbria, leading to fewer bobbies on the beat.

Richard Rhodes photo
Richard Rhodes

The county force is also poised to cut management positions to the bone – and will increasingly rely on technology so it can “work with less”.

The impact of further cash reductions are spelled out in a report from the office of Cumbria’s crime commissioner, Richard Rhodes, ahead of a crunch meeting over council tax.

“Visible policing, problem solving to prevent crime and disorder and public reassurance will be less,” it states.

It has already been revealed that police numbers in Cumbria are set to drop to 1,070 by 2017. The force currently budgets for 1,134 officers.

Now a top-level document shows the effects this will have in the coming years on how policing is run, with finance chiefs having to cope with an expected drop in funding of millions of pounds.

The report states: “The financial impact of the reduction in funding and rising operational costs has a direct implication for the numbers of police officers, community support officers and police staff.

“This in turn impacts on the services that can be provided.”

Police numbers have already dropped in recent years from a high of 1,198 officers before budget cuts began to bite.

Community policing teams, a squad of officers covering a set beat, were cut from 22 to 10 and police stations were also sold.

The report says that even with new cuts in police numbers it “will still be possible to work to a community policing model” but “there will, however, be a need to further reduce the number of teams”.

The document adds the force will still be able to carry on responding to emergency and non-emergency calls at current levels of performance.

“The operational changes deliver a Cumbria policing model operating on 1070 police officers and 85 community support officers.

“The model is, however, reliant on investment in technology to maximise the productivity of officers and staff so that the constabulary can work with less.”

This includes practices such as directly recording a crime at a victim’s house on a computer so officers do not have to go back to the station. The document comes ahead of a meeting of the committee that scrutinises the work of the county’s crime commissioner, at which a planned rise in the police part of council tax will be discussed.

Mr Rhodes has proposed a 1.93 per cent increase, which would mean a bill for a Band D household would go up by £3.96 to £208.62 per year.

The proposal will be considered by Cumbria’s Police and Crime Panel at a meeting in Kendal on Thursday.

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