Police likely to shed 640 jobs in four years

POLICING levels in Norfolk will fall to their lowest level in more than 20 years if the force bears the brunt of Home Office spending cuts, chiefs have warned.

A total of 640 jobs - made up of 350 police officers, 60 PCSOs and 230 civilian posts - are likely to be cut over the next four years.

Chief constable Phil Gormley and police authority chairman Stephen Bett will today lobby Norfolk MPs to support their call for a fair deal. They are preparing to �35m from the budget - despite successfully driving down spending over recent years.

The proposed job cuts would save �28m - leaving a further �7m of savings still to be found.

It has already revealed that officer numbers, which currently stand at about 1,600, would be cut by 10pc over the next two years. But the latest announcement shows the cuts would go far deeper, amounting to a reduction of more than 20pc by 2014.

Malcolm Sneesby, chairman of Norfolk Police Federation, said: “I joined the force 22 years ago and at that time there were about 1,300 officers. Over the years that number has gradually crept up and it would be a huge shame if all that work was undone.

“Perhaps most worryingly, we would be losing a lot of experienced officers. It would take a long time to replace that kind of experience.

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“We have no argument with the chief constable or the police authority. This decision rests with the government and it is important that ministers are made to understand that any cuts will have an immediate impact that will only get worse over time.”

Police officers cannot be made redundant so the reduction will be achieved through a recruitment freeze. The force hopes to keep civilian job losses to a minimum and has already frozen recruitment but redundancies look increasingly likely.

Norfolk police has already cut �18m from its annual budget. But, if the government opts for a ‘one size fits all approach’ this would not be taken into account meaning the county would be penalised disproportionately compared to less efficient forces.

A statement issued ahead of a meeting with MPs at the Houses of Parliament this morning, states: “Norfolk constabulary has already transformed its business and now has to decide how to reduce levels of service. The constabulary and authority believe strongly that Norfolk people should not be unfairly disadvantaged by its previous foresight and resulting success.”

Mr Bett said: “It is a dire situation when we have no option but to unpick so much of the good work that has been done on behalf of the public.

“The constabulary’s recent transformation delivered tangible benefits, cutting out much of the bureaucracy, duplication and waste that dogs many other forces today.

“It is ironic that when we have worked hard to put our house in order, we find we are being treated like other forces who are behind us in development terms.

“I would hope that the government will see fit to credit us with getting ahead of the game and recognise that Norfolk people paid a premium to get a first-class policing service. They are in danger of being short-changed.”

Mr Gormley said that the priority would be to ensure Norfolk remains a low-crime county, whatever the funding situation.

He added: “We will do this by minimising as far as possible the reduction of uniformed officers and by sharing back office functions with our preferred partner, Suffolk constabulary.

“We already have some joint police units in place – the major incident team with Suffolk is, according to independent scrutiny, working well and saving money.

“The future will be shaped by our ability to be innovative during adversity and by sharing resources to reduce costs and maintain services.”