East Riding councillors have raised concerns about the potentially damaging impact of radical changes to Humberside Police.
The Humberside force is currently undergoing a massive restructure to achieve savings of £34.4 million by March 2015 (16 per cent of its overall budget) and cope with cuts in funding from central government.
The ‘Building the Future’ restructure of Humberside Police will possibly see 700 fewer police officers since 2010 and 600 fewer civilian staff, the potential closure of 21 police stations, and a radical change in the way the force operates.
East Riding of Yorkshire councillors believe the restructure could have a very damaging impact on crime-fighting and community policing across the county.
Councillor Shaun Horton, chairman of a special Police Review Panel which was set up to gain an understanding of the police restructure and its possible implications, said a number of issues needed to be addressed.
Councillor Horton said:”We want to help the police and work together to meet the pressures from the financial challenges, and hope the police respond positively by making time for full consultation on what we hope is seen as constructive feedback from the review panel on their ‘Building for the Future’ plans.”
He added:”We are deeply concerned on behalf of East Yorkshire residents about the police’s redesign plans.
“The scale of change set in motion by the police’s ‘Building the Future’ plan is unprecedented and it seems to the review panel that the redesign process is taking place at undue pace, with an overly ambitious implementation date of April 2015.
“The panel has also been disappointed by the lack of information and engagement from Humberside Police, with the Chief Constable and the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner declining to take part in the review.”
The review panel’s concerns include:
the public are largely unaware of the planned changes because of a lack of consultation and engagement from the police with the local authority, residents and key partners
the pace and scale of change could jeopardise Humberside Police’s operations and long-term financial sustainability
a large reduction in police officers and staff could delay response times and lead to higher levels of crime
a large number of police stations could be closed across the East Riding
the East Riding could suffer disproportionately, with more police resources concentrated on Hull, Grimsby and Scunthorpe despite East Riding residents paying the most towards the cost of policing.
The concerns are outlined in a report produced by the review panel which will be considered by East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s Safer and Stronger Communities Sub-Committee on Thursday 11 September.
Councillor Horton has called on the police to now “fully engage and work with the council in a collaborative manner” to help a smooth transition and ensure crime and disorder levels in the East Riding and the rest of the force area do not increase as a result of the changes.
Fellow review panel member Councillor Paul Hogan also urged the police to carry out more public consultations and have in-depth discussions with key partners such as councils and the other emergency services about its radical plans.
Councillor Hogan said:”We think it is reasonable to expect a significant level of engagement and public consultation and all communities should have a chance to comment on the proposed changes.
“Rather than working with partners to help transform policing for the benefit of the community, the review panel is concerned that the ‘Building the Future’ plan will be presented as a fait accompli.”
The Police Review Panel is also worried that the changes are being rushed in a way which not only jeopardises police operations but also the force’s financial sustainability in the long term.
Review panel member Councillor Felicity Temple said:”The panel appreciates that plans need to be put in place quickly to provide assurances that the budget savings can be achieved without any risk of impact on policing in the East Riding, but we feel that the redesign plans are being implemented at breakneck speed and is at risk of creating more problems than solutions.
“The panel strongly urges the Chief Constable and the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner to consider the impact, test and then implement changes on a phased basis.”
The review panel has also questioned the robustness of the data being used by Humberside Police in its redesign plan.
Panel member Councillor Ann Suggit said:”The police told us that 44 per cent of telephone calls to the police are inappropriate, meaning that residents, in their view, shouldn’t be calling them for help. The panel would like to scrutinise this and wants to ensure that the public receive the services, and the victims the support, that they both require.”
According to Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, Humberside Police plans to close 21 of its 36 police stations over the next seven months.
There are currently 14 police stations in the East Riding and, while no detail has been provided to confirm where closures would take place, the review panel is concerned that the East Riding could bear a disproportionate brunt.
The panel is also concerned about the impact of the planned reduction of police officers, staff and police community support officers (PCSOs). It is estimated that by March 2015 there will be 1,563 police officers (a reduction of 495 police officers since March 2010). The national average reduction is 11 per cent – the reduction in Humberside is 24 per cent. An additional 210 police officer posts are still to be reduced (between 2015 and 2018) and it is not clear which areas of the Humberside police area or which specific services will be adversely affected by this planned reduction.