More cuts on way for thin blue line

Chief Constable Mick Creedon

Chief Constable Mick Creedon

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OVER the next four years massive savings will need to be made from the Derbyshire Police budget – but it was revealed this week that work has already started on making the force more efficient.

Those who attended a public meeting held in Buxton, on Wednesday were told that work had been ongoing for two years but a further saving of £6 million was needed – with more to follow.

Chief Constable Mick Creedon said: “Whatever government came in we knew there were going to be savage cuts. We are going through a difficult time but our commitment nonetheless is about delivering the service.”

He said: “We have a very detailed plan in place. We have been planning this for two years and are making huge changes.”

In total 400 jobs are set to be axed but 160 police staff posts have already gone. Mr Creedon said over the next two years they would be losing 120 police officers and a further 110-115 police staff posts which include some PCSOs.

“It would be lying if I said it won’t impact on services – of course it would. You can’t do the same as you did with 10 per cent less staff.

“But we are working through that very carefully and doing all we can to mitigate that.”

The main priorities for the force are protecting the vulnerable, attacking criminality, reducing crime, providing reassurance and providing value for money.

“We are having to look critically at where we open our police stations and when we open them while continuing to support you,” he told the audience.

But he said there were no plans at this stage to close police stations.

Mr Creedon revealed that one of the biggest threats to the public was from cyber crime which includes identity theft and credit card cloning.

Alcohol was also highlighted as an underlying problem with 50 per cent of violent crime alcohol-related.

Councillor Philip Hickson, Chairman of the Police Authority, said it would be a considerable challenge balancing the budget.

“The police authority is going to remain committed to the task. We will continue to hold the force to account on behalf of you.

“This force remains one of the highest performing forces in the country.

“It remains one of the safest counties and we intend to keep it that way,” he added.

Elected top cop is ‘toxic politics’

Politics and policing is a toxic mix” warned the Chairman of the Police Authority at a public meeting last week.

Councillor Philip Hickson made his comments as he raised his concerns over plans to introduce elected Police and Crime Commissioners to replace existing police authorities.

In Derbyshire the Police Authority is made up of nine councillors from Derbyshire County and Derby City Councils together with eight independent members. They receive a small allowance but do not receive a salary and are supported by a small team of paid staff.

The three main functions they carry out are engaging with the public, working with the force and holding the force to account.

Cllr Hickson said the size of the task for one person would be huge and said that at the current time the Authority was able to set the police budget without politics looming large.

“At the moment politics don’t feature in the way the Police Authority relate to the Chief Constable,” he said.

“Is it going to be the same when one person is elected on a mandate?

“We don’t know really. Politics and policing is a toxic mix.”

The meeting also heard that is was not clear how much it would cost to hold elections to select Police and Crime Commissioners every four years, how much their salaries would be or those of assistant and deputy commissioners who may be appointed – or what damage a maverick commissioner could do.

Q&A

Those who attended the meeting and others following events online were able to put their questions.

Here are a small selection of them:

Q: What steps are being taken to streamline the administration to ensure police officers are fighting crime?

A : Every aspect of the service is being looked at. The number of divisions has been reduced from four to three and the number of custody suites has been reduced. Work is ongoing looking at collaboration with other forces with forensic science, air support and possibly HR and finance.

Q: Our PCSO is a fantastic ambassador, I would be reluctant to see her go.

A: A quarter of funding is provided by the force with the government funding three-quarters, which is to be maintained for at least two years. The overall number of PCSOs will be reduced through natural wastage.

Q: What is the cost of the police authority?

A: £920k per year in total.

Q: What savings could be made if some police stations were closed?

A: There are 100 premises across the county and the force is looking at reducing running costs.

Mr Creedon said: “At this stage no police stations are being looked at for closure. If it comes to that we will consult widely but we have too many premises.”

Q: Will local bobbies become less visible?

A: The use of mobile data terminals in some rural areas mean officers have to go back to police stations less, so potentially they will be more visible.

Q: Do you think the recession will have an impact on the levels of crime?

A: There has been a rise in shoplifting, fraud, cyber crime and illegal imports.

Around 100 cannabis factories have been discovered in the last year in Derbyshire.

County one of safest in the UK

Over the last seven years, since the National Crime Recording Standard was introduced, Derbyshire has seen a 34 per cent reduction in crime. Chief Constable Mick Creedon said domestic burglary had seen a 56 per cent reduction over that time.

“A total of 17,000 vehicles were broken into or stolen in 2002/2003. That is now under 7,000 – a 60.3 per cent reduction.

“They are harder to steal these days – although that 60 per cent reduction is bigger than for virtually every other force in the country.

“Some reductions are the result of proactive police operations. If we didn’t go out looking for drugs offences, acting on intelligence, we wouldn’t get any drugs arrests.”

Since 2006/2007 the figures for drug arrests have risen from 1558 to 2297, up 22.4 per cent.

Detection rates have risen to 33.5 per cent from 23.4 per cent six years ago.

“It is more than any force that neighbours us or in the East Midlands region,” said Mr Creedon.