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Cash-strapped Suffolk police cut numbers

PUBLISHED: 11:06 10 August 2009 | UPDATED: 11:26 06 July 2010

POLICE chiefs last night denied the thin blue line was getting thinner in Suffolk after new figures revealed it was the only force in East Anglia to cut officer numbers last year.

POLICE chiefs last night denied the thin blue line was getting thinner in Suffolk after new figures revealed it was the only force in East Anglia to cut officer numbers last year.

Cash-strapped Suffolk Constabulary said a “challenging financial backdrop” lead to 28 police officer posts being lost in the last year.

This is compared to Norfolk, which employed 91 new officers and Essex, which has an additional 100 officers. Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire have also added to their force.

According to Suffolk's deputy chief constable Jacqui Cheer, the majority of these 28 police officer posts have been filled by civilian staff, which is “more cost effective”.

“It means fewer officers behind desks, greater visible police presence on our streets and freeing up officers to take jobs that make best use of their skills and training,” she added.

Gulshan Kayembe, chairwoman of the Suffolk Police Authority, echoed her points.

She said: “The key point is that those posts which have been lost will not be noticeable to the general public. If anything we have a greater police presence.

“This is part of civilianisation and makes sense. Why have police officer tied up doing jobs that a civilian can do?

“Probably because of our financial situation we have been quicker to look at recruiting civilians than our neighbouring forces.”

In April, Suffolk Constabulary was awarded one of the lowest grant settlements from the Government for the entire country.

It was given just a 2.5pc increase, which amounts to about £98.63 per person. In comparison Norfolk was given £101.65 per person and Essex £103.61.

At the time, Mrs Kayembe warned the consequence of this was that Suffolk Constabulary would need to make cuts to balance the budget.

Matt Gould, chairman of the Suffolk Police Federation, which represents rank and file officers, said: “It is the state of affairs at the moment.

“We are constantly trying to maintain the status quo. We had an exceptionally low grant from the Home Office and that is reflected in this move. We would love to be in the same position as Norfolk and Essex and employ more police officers but it has not happened because of money restraints.”

In her full statement, Deputy Chief Constable Jacqui Cheer explained: “In 2007 we launched a programme of workforce modernisation, which is about putting the right person in the right job.

“This has freed up those officers to take up vacant frontline policing posts. The move has meant that the vacant posts are filled leading to a decrease in recruitment, which allows for the lower number of police officer posts in Suffolk for 2009. It simply means that police officers are making the best uses of their powers, skills and training to further benefit people living, working and visiting the county.”

The strength of the police force is now 1,291 compared to 1,319 last year.

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