Report reveals Essex Police to lose 447 officers in three years

Nick Alston, Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex, speaking at the Essex Police estates and strategy review announcement, with Chief Constable Stephen Kavanagh. Picture: Su Anderson

Nick Alston, Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex, speaking at the Essex Police estates and strategy review announcement, with Chief Constable Stephen Kavanagh. Picture: Su Anderson

Police officer numbers in Essex are set to fall at a rate 2.5 times the national average over the next three years.

Figures published by HM Inspector of Constabulary (HMIC) reveal between March this year and March 2018 Essex Police plans to lose 15% of its officers – 447 warranted staff – compared to just 6% as a national force average.

Two weeks’ ago the force announced plans to cut 190 PCSOs and 62 front counter staff as part of a shake-up of its officer structure and police stations.

The proportion of officers on the frontline will also fall, with 89% of officers on the frontline in 2018 compared to 91% this year. Nationally the figure is set to remain at 92%.

Essex Police will recruit an estimated 200 more police staff, including many who will form investigation teams to support detectives – of which there is currently a shortage.

Police and Crime Commissioner

Nick Alston said: “One fundamental principle at the heart of police efficiency and effectiveness is ensuring officers, with a warrant card and power of arrest, are able to use those powers on a regular basis. Some roles which have historically been performed by officers do not necessarily need a warrant card, so some roles can be performed by trained staff until the stage where warranted powers are needed.

“I will continue to make the case, both locally and nationally, for Essex Police to be fairly and reasonably funded. I am also certain Essex Police officers, PCSOs and staff will continue to work tirelessly to keep our county safe.”

The commissioner added the report used a different workforce model than the option chosen by senior officers – an admitted having no PCSOs at all was considered as an option.

The HMIC efficiency report also said more needs to be done to manage unresolved calls.

At the time of the inspection Essex Police had an “unacceptable” backlog of open incidents, a recurring issue which meant there was a significant risk and victims could lose confidence in the force.

At the start of the summer there were 2,300 incidents, compared to 1,200 in September last year and 800 in January, but the force said it was now down to fewer than 700.

HMIC also said it would be closely watching plans to cut PCSOs, as well as other cost-cutting plans which it described as “ambitious” but untested.

The overall rating of Essex Police was “good”, and the force was deemed “adequately prepared to face its future financial problems”, though it was rated as “requires improvement” in using resources to meet demand.

Deputy Chief Constable Derek Benson, at Essex Police, said: “We are in the middle of a decade that will see policing budgets in Essex cut by a third and it’s vital independent reports such as this confirm we’re managing those reductions well in order to keep the county safe.

“The future will see fewer officers and PCSOs, but it will also mean a smarter, more effective use of reducing resources.

“Through good planning we are more able than ever to understand what threats are out there and prioritise our response so we provide the best service we can with the money we’re given.”

HM Inspector of Constabulary Zoe Billingham said: “HMIC found Essex Police is adequately prepared to face its future financial challenges. Through effective financial management and accurate budgeting, the force is successfully making the savings required of it.

“It is developing a good understanding of the demands placed on its services and is reallocating the workforce to the areas of most need, for example in protecting vulnerable people. The benefits of these changes will take some time to be properly realised.

“At the time of the inspection Essex Police had identified savings to 2018/19. While these plans are well developed, they are ambitious and are yet to be tested in reality.

“More recently, the force has announced proposals for further significant reductions in the number of its PCSOs. HMIC will monitor this development closely.

“More work is necessary to manage the response to calls from the public where there was an unacceptable backlog of unresolved open incidents. This has a been a recurring issue over the last few years and is recognised by the force as a priority area for improvement.”

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