The Town Council was pleased that Mr Tim Passmore, Police and Crime Commissioner for Suffolk, was able to meet with Town Councillors and brief Members on his proposals to review the local policing model in Suffolk – and in particular how these proposals would affect Felixstowe.
At the Ordinary Council meeting of 13 January, Members debated the issues and proposals as outlined in the special edition of “Constables’ County” (click here to view).
However, despite the reassurances given by Mr Passmore, the Town Council was concerned that the changes, due to take effect from April this year, would lead to a less visible police presence in the town.
The Town Council resolved to make the following response to the Suffolk Local Policing Review, which was submitted to Mr Passmore on 21 January:
Suffolk Local Policing Review
Dear Mr Passmore
Felixstowe Town Council has considered the proposed changes to the Local Policing Model as laid out in the special edition of Constables County. A representative of the Council attended the 10th December 2015 briefing to parish and town councils and Felixstowe Members also had the benefit of your briefing on Wednesday 13th January 2016.
Despite these opportunities to reassure us, my Council remains very concerned that the changes laid out are going to have a significant detrimental effect on the policing cover provided to Felixstowe Residents.
This Council has always maintained a positive relationship with both our local policing Commanders and individual Officers and has sought to support their aims and objectives. The Council understands the pressures of budget reductions and has maintained a realistic expectation in respect of services.
Local policing has, to date always focused on two key areas which can be summarized as ‘Reducing Crime’ and ‘Reducing the Fear of Crime’. The Council acknowledges and is grateful that Suffolk is one of the safest counties in the country in which to live, work or visit; it is also known that the fear of crime is greater than the actual risk posed by any such crime. However, the fear is real and genuine and it impacts on the day-to-day lives of residents. The expectation of the public and Felixstowe Town Council is that the Constabulary will seek to ensure that Felixstowe residents feel safer both in their homes and as they go about their business in public places.
If people are to feel safe they have to believe that the Constabulary is fully engaged, visible, accountable and public facing. Doing great work in the background may well reduce crime, reduce demand and save money but it will not address people’s fears and anxieties.
This Council recalls that some years ago there was a similar adjustment to the Local Policing Model. This was Project Response. Project Response saw the removal of the Response Base from Felixstowe and a reduction in the strength and number of Safer Neighbourhood Teams (SNTs) together with a change in Constabulary priorities and direction. The project was based on demand data that showed, on paper, that this was the most efficient and cost effective way to deliver Local Policing.
At the time, Felixstowe Town Council considered this to be a major issue for the peninsula and challenged it on all levels. Despite the protestations the plan was implemented. Response staff were redeployed to a base off of the peninsula and were signed up to the deployment and patrol plans aimed to ensure that they spent their down time patrolling Felixstowe and District area.
Project Response failed in a number of ways – it failed to deliver proactive patrols, it failed to deliver efficient response times and most importantly it failed to reassure that public that the Constabulary was keeping them safe. It was thus abandoned and Response Staff were relocated back to Felixstowe and Woodbridge.
This new plan has many similarities but is in fact in the opinion of this Council even more likely to fail.
The reduction in the number of SNTs, from 29 to 18, will mean a significant increase in the geographic area of responsibility for the Officers and Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) remaining in post within the SNTs.
The model does now limit the type of tasks and functions that they will be carrying out thus will free up some time for them – however the number of staff remaining is so low that it will not be realistic to anticipate there being any SNT staff on duty for around 40% of the time. The argument that the staff at neighbouring SNTs will cover this un-resourced time is neither viable nor realistic; they will be dealing with their issues within their geographic areas of responsibility.
This Council believes the removal of the response base in Felixstowe is fraught with danger. It will significantly reduce the proactive patrol capacity within the town, it will significantly reduce the visible police presence, it will negatively impact on people’s concerns and anxieties and it will raise the level of risk in respect of meeting response times.
Your stats may accurately indicate demand and provide all the evidence to support the plan as laid out – but like all delivery models there is another factor that should be applied and that is professional knowledge and experience.
The Town Council acknowledge the issues that Police Commanders and Supervisors face in respect of staff and resources on a daily basis. It also understands:
- the reality of dealing with staff sickness, scene preservation, Police Support Unit (PSU) demands, major incidents, Mutual Aid, public order incidents, vehicle unserviceability etc.
- that the staff figures you quote are Establishment numbers and that there are other factors such as Sickness, Restrictions, Part Time working, Family friendly shifts, Annual Leave, Training, Maternity Leave, Court abstractions etc.
- the demands on front line staff in respect of paperwork, training, intelligence submissions, and administrative functions which impact on their ability to get out of their bases and on patrol.
- the difficulty of handing over vehicles from the off going to the oncoming shift and ensuring that cover is maintained.
- the difficulties in having staff in the right places to make best use of the time available during shift overlap periods.
This Council does not feel that the full effects of these impact factors have been considered when deciding on resource levels and staff locations.
In conclusion this Council considers that the removal of the Response Base at Felixstowe, the significant decrease in the SNT staff levels; and, the reduction in the number of SNT bases; coupled with the closure of the front desk at the local police station will result in a significant reduction in the visibility of local police staff. The Council believes that this will increase both risk and public concern and thus reduce levels of trust and confidence.
Felixstowe Town Council asks that this matter is given further urgent consideration, with a view to increasing the Police presence within Felixstowe. As a minimum the Town Council seeks your assurance that the police Response Hub will remain in the town. In any case, it is critical that any plans for the proposed relocation of the police station provides capacity for a Response Hub on site, either in the short or longer term
Your urgent consideration is appreciated and I look forward to advising my Council of your response.
More information about the proposed changes to policing in Suffolk can be found on the Suffolk Constabulary website here: Suffolk Local Policing Review