Essex Police: Uttlesford to get more officers in force reform

ESSEX Police’s chief constable has pledged that response times and police officers will not be reduced in Uttlesford as part of the force’s restructuring.

Chief constable Jim Barker-McCardle was in Saffron Walden to outline the changes that will be taking place in Uttlesford from March 2012 – when the “Blueprint” comes into effect.

The Blueprint will see Essex Police save �41million by 2014 through a series of cutbacks. While bad news for some, Uttlesford is set to benefit by gaining 13 officers in March – an inspector, three sergeants and nine PCs, said Mr Barker-McCardle.

“Uttlesford is in the growth rather than reduction part of the Blueprint because Dunmow and Saffron Walden are very important stations,” said Mr Barker- McCardle.

“There will, of course, be more than 39 officers in Uttlesford – this number represents the neighbourhood policing teams whose sole purpose will be to deal with local issues.”

Uttlesford’s response teams will be based in Great Dunmow but they will be borderless meaning the closest officers will attend an incident regardless of which division they are from.

Mr Barker-McCardle stated that the borderless approach will not affect response times.

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However, while it sounds promising, former police officer and Uttlesford district councillor Doug Perry remains “apprehensive” about the initiative’s viability.

“The changes are not going to happen as Essex Police say it will,” he said.

“EU legislation states PCSOs can’t work after midnight, plus they are reducing numbers, which leaves police officers. Essex Police is saying they will increase the number of PCs but I can’t see it.”

As a former member of Essex Police, Cllr Perry believes the Blueprint is recycling unsuccessful ideas from the past.

“The Blueprint has not been thought through enough. When I was a police officer I remember a number of similar changes and they didn’t work then,” he said.

“A borderless approach will mean we lose the local policing aspect. We have already had incidents where officers from outside the area have come in and made a mess of things.

“I think Mr Barker-McCardle was telling us what we wanted to hear rather than what we needed to hear.”

And despite promises that Saffron Walden and Dunmow remained an integral part of the Blueprint, Mr Perry believes the Saffron Walden station is still under threat of closure.

“Saffron Walden Town Council is still concerned about the future of policing in the town so we have arranged a meeting with Chief Inspector Nick Lee to discuss ideas and the way forward.”