By invitation Brian Ashton, Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough), addressed the Parish Council at its meeting on 20 Jan 14.
He began by detailing the challenge faced by the Police Force to reduce real expenditure within the Force by 25% but gradually over the next four years, The current budget is £130 million/year for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough with half coming from a Government grant and the other half raised locally via the precept.
The Police are seeking an emphasis on putting a public face ‘on the beat’ and are pleased that crime levels continue to reduce (20% over the last few years) but realise of course that it cannot continue to do so indefinitely. A combined service delivery, cost-effective over boundaries, is now in place and back office costs are now to be looked at more closely.
Already work has been undertaken on changing grading arrangements, leading to a 200 Police staff reduction and 60 posts at Inspector level and above. The number of Police Constables remains steady.
Statistically South Cambs is the third safest place to live in the country, with East Cambs coming in at seventh.
The introduction of electronic tablets for use by 154 Constables has been trialled. Research shows that this has led to PCs spending more than an hour extra out and about per day. Additional advantages include software enabling multiple forms to be completed by one set of data input, saving time not only for the PC but reducing the need for checking details further down the line – if the first form has correct details, then so do all the associated ones. Brian advised the Government has agreed funding for the tablets and software going forward.
Questions followed from the Council:
Q. Derek Marston asked what Brian’ reaction was to a report out on Monday about the Police Federation.
A. Brian said that he had not read the report but assured all that the morale amongst Cambridgeshire Police is very high.
Q. Brian Ing had concerns that experience by other Forces shows that in practice following such productivity initiatives PCs would still spend the same amount of time at the Police Station.
A. Brian Ashton confirmed that management will be key.
Q. Mike Mason asked about the Force’s options for borrowing money.
A. Brian confirmed a policy decision had been made not to borrow money for capital items. Any borrowing needs to be matched against lifetime expectations.
Q. Denis Payne warned against economies of scale with risks needing to be mitigated. Were Police Stations likely to be sold?
A. Brian Any review would include police accommodation to ensure that it was being effectively utilised.
Q. Hooda Abdullah asked about the Commissioner’s published policy of fining cyclists on pavements especially in light of Government advice for caution as sometimes the pavement is the safest option.
A. Brian admitted that the process is all about balance with community policing concentrating on safety not fines. But in the end this is for the Police to judge.
Q. Ruth Moulder asked about the importance of social media within the police force feeling was it could be beneficial for local PCSOs for instance to be members of local Facebook groups. This would have the double benefit of calming the wider perception of increases in crime locally.
She also asked how well the 101 number was working and how customer satisfaction is measured.
A. Brian noted these comments and confirmed that he was conscious of the perception issue. Quarterly reports are made showing the percentage of population contacting via 101. Next year there are plans for the Police to take over the Victim Support organisation.
Q. Pene Nudds applauded the planned use of tablets noting their extra use with the diverse number of languages in the UK. She was concerned though regarding possible abuse if lost/stolen.
A. Brian said that information about individuals would not be held on the device. Access would be refused as soon as the item was reported mislaid.
Q. Pene further asked about the current status of Neighbourhood Panels.
A. Brian advised these were originally set up by the District Councils; some have worked, others not so well. Due to tight resources at District Council they were now being approached in different ways with no settled ideas. The main aim was to give plenty of opportunities to discuss the Police service.