Essex police officers march in protest over cuts

HUNDREDS of police officers in Essex are expected to march in London today to protest against the cuts being made to the force.

They will be joined by thousands of representatives from every force across the country who are descending on the capital in response to the Government’s decision to slash 20 per cent from policing budgets over the next four years. In Essex, this equates to a shortfall of around �41million.

There are expected to be about 300 off-duty officers from the county taking part in the march, which starts at Millbank at 12noon, passing the Home Office, Parliament Square, Downing Street, Trafalgar Square, and finishing at Waterloo Place.

Last July Essex Police unveiled a new policing ‘Blueprint’ which was implemented in March this year.

Under the new model, around 400 officers are losing their jobs, saving up to �17m, while a number of police station front counters are being closed or having their opening hours reduced.

The Police Federation, which has organised the march, says it wants to send a clear message to the coalition Government that it is angry with the changes that it believes will affect public safety.

Chairman of the Essex Police Federation Mark Smith said: “We want to highlight the cuts to the public because I don’t think they are fully aware of the effect they are having.

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“We have had to restructure our system. There are not as many police cars patrolling areas, they are just responding, it’s like fire engine policing.

“We are concerned about our job to serve and protect the public and I don’t think the public realise they are not getting that full service. The other week I had just one sergeant and three officers covering three towns in Essex.

“I am under no illusions, I don’t think we will influence the Government now but we can put a spotlight on what’s happening to the public, who can influence with their vote.”

But the Conservative MP MP Priti Patel, who represents Witham, said members of the public would be “astonished” to see the size of overtime payments to some officers and that while she appreciated their concerns, budget cuts had to be made.

She said: “We all recognise the good work that the police do to keep us safe but reforms to policing are now needed.

“Members of the public will be astonished to see the size of payments made to some police officers in generous overtime payments which include receiving �100 just for answering a phone.

“While I appreciate the concerns that police officers have, I hope that they will respond constructively to the reforms proposed and work with the Government to deliver a package of measures which improves policing, gets more officers out on the front line and saves money.”

She said no final decisions had been made by the Government and that she would be meeting with officers in her constituency to discuss the matters in more detail.