Police chiefs lobby Norfolk MPs over cuts fears

POLICE chiefs have written to MPs across Norfolk setting out the likely impact of cuts to the force’s budget - and urging them to speak out to prevent the county being “unfairly” targetted.

Chief constable Phil Gormley and Norfolk Police Authority chairman Stephen Bett have invited all Norfolk MPs to a briefing next month. They will set out the scale of expected budget cuts at the meeting on October 13.

In the letter they say that police force’s face a cut of between 25pc and 40pc.

They add: “Although all forces are currently investigating major cost cutting, our position is unique as we have already taken �18million from our budget in the past four years and streamlined our structures and processes during the recent radical modernisation of the Constabulary.

“As a pioneering force, acknowledged to have set the template for today’s policing model, we feel that our efforts in reducing bureaucracy, waste and duplication but, at the same time, improving customer services, should be recognised in government grant calculations.

“We are estimating a funding gap of at least �35m over the next four financial years - 2011/12 to 2014/15.

“Put simply, the fat in Norfolk constabulary has already been cut and, although we fully accept there is always room for further efficiency savings or trimming, we believe strongly that Norfolk people should not be unfairly disadvantaged by our previous foresight and resulting success.”

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The force could cut police officer numbers by 165 - a 10pc decrease from the current level of 1,650. While PCSO numbers could fall from 280 to 253.

Mr Gormley and Mr Bett say they do not want to speculate before the completion of the government’s comprehensive spending review.

But the letter adds: “For the people of Norfolk, who have already invested in additional police officers and PCSOs in the police precept element of the council tax, it is going to be a particularly bitter pill to swallow.

“Whatever the outcome of the comprehensive spending review and its impact on the police grant to Norfolk, there is a clear message for the county - many fewer police officers, many fewer PCSOs and many fewer police staff roles.

“We are already reducing officer and staff numbers through natural turnover and retirement following the blanket moratorium on recruitment imposed shortly after the May General Election when it became clear large-scale public sector cuts were looming.

“Soon, this will include redundancy of staff (civilian) roles following a review of our support functions. We estimate that the moratorium will reduce police officer numbers by some 80 a year and PCSOs by some 15 a year.”

Sir Hugh Orde, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, warned in June that current numbers of police officers would be “unsustainable” under proposed government cuts.