‘Business as usual despite cuts to the police budget’

Reporter:

Terry Canty

NORTH Wales’ Chief Constable is promising it will be “business as usual” despite being tasked with making millions of pounds worth of savings.

Mark Polin is being forced to oversee a series of savings over the next four years which is understood to amount to the loss of about 121 uniformed officers and the same number of support staff.

“The message from me is that it’s business as usual,” said Mr Polin, who is being forced to take action due to 20 per cent of funding – or £25 million – being sliced off the force’s grant from the Home Office over the next four years.

He pledged detection rates, serious organised crime, community policing and emergency response times would not be affected by the shake-up.

North Wales Police’s successful neighbourhood policing would also not be sacrificed with the numbers of Police Community Support Officers and Community Beat Managers remaining the same and shift patterns extended to cover peak evening hours.

Phrases such as “resetting”, applying to people’s expectations of the service they receive from police, and “resilience” in relation to officers, were used repeatedly by Mr Polin in an interview given ahead of May 4 – dubbed the start of the North Wales Police’s new way of working.

“We are going to have to do things differently,” he said.

“It’s our policy presently to respond to every crime complaint with a resource, a person. In some instances we won’t do that.”

He gave the example of personal visits by officers to investigate “low level”, “minor crime” and “minor criminal damage” being sacrificed.

“It comes down to the fact that now we have been able to respond to public expectations we are now resetting those expectations,” he said.

“It has been tough for all of us.

“But I recognise we have got our part to play in meeting the national financial difficulties and we will do just that.”

He warned that while the severity of the cuts was being offset over the next two years thanks to forecast increases in precept funding, the fact that in years three and four of the planned four-year saving programme, no funding commitment had yet been given, plunging the force into “uncharted territory”.

Relief together with savings could be achieved by way of a review of the force’s estate expected to be completed by October and could provide the opportunity for more savings to be achieved.

“This will start a debate which buildings will close in the future,” he said.

One such building where savings could be achieved would be the police HQ tower in Bodhyfryd, Wrexham, which police have already said could be knocked down within the next 10 years.

Mr Polin was reluctant to discuss individual buildings ahead of the publication of the review but said: “That tower is old and sways in the wind. Do we want to that building in the future, I don’t know at this stage.”

Since taking over last year from controversial Chief Constable Richard Brunstrom, Mr Polin has already slashed the amount of targets used by politicians to measure the success of the fight against crime.

Mr Polin inherited 29 targets which he worked hard to reduce to 14 and ahead of the May 4 reorganisation had been reduced to 11 which he hoped would help under pressure officers during the current climate.

Mr Polin remained confident that while frontline services would remain at the same level as they are today, a degree of rationing was inevitable.

“There had to be some understanding from the public that with 20 per cent budget cuts proposed we had to find the capacity somewhere.

“To do nothing was never an option.”

See full story in the Leader

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