Suffolk and Norfolk police consider joint working to cut costs

SUFFOLK and Norfolk police are considering joint working options in their control rooms as they struggle to cut costs.

Although it has been made clear to Suffolk officers that there are no immediate plans for a centralised control room and call handling service, a working party is looking to achieve savings of 20 per cent.

Both forces are under pressure to find multi-million pound cutbacks in order to balance their budgets over the next few years.

Suffolk police have repeatedly dismissed suggestions the constabularies will merge, but has actively participated in a policy of collaboration.

Norfolk Police Authority is today (Wednesday) due to be briefed on the Operational Collaboration Portfolio which has been commissioned by the joint statutory committee of both police authorities.

Among the items on the paper is a Control Room/Call Handling Review.

The project is looking at options for Norfolk and Suffolk to work together, what savings can be made, and potential improvements to the service.

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The review encompasses an area which has not previously been examined for collaboration.

A team has been set up, representing both constabularies, which is trying to identify savings of 20% from the control room/call handling budget. This includes salaries and other costs.

The working party will also assess the operational risks, and opportunities that could be gained.

Two assistant chief constables will scrutinise the team's findings, before formally reporting to the joint Chief Police Officer team meeting on March 30.

Any proposals for changing the current way of working will then be presented to the police authorities representing both counties.

Nishan Wijeratne, a spokesman for Suffolk Constabulary, said: 'This is an area of collaboration that both forces are looking at, but it is in the very early stages of possibility.'

Matt Gould, chairman of Suffolk Police Federation, said he had been told that merging the control rooms and call handling staff into one central base was not on the immediate horizon.

Currently a small number of police officers work in the control room and call handling areas, with civilian staff making up the majority of the personnel.

Commenting on the review, Mr Gould added: 'I understand they are going to look at some of the savings by adjusting shift patterns.

'I have been assured that the level of service to police officers and the public will not be affected by these measures.'

A spokeswoman for Norfolk Constabulary said: 'At the moment it is a scoping exercise. No decisions have been made.'