Unitary threat to police force

PUBLISHED: 09:57 19 September 2008 | UPDATED: 21:19 05 July 2010

SUFFOLK'S chief constable believes it is vital that Lowestoft remains as part of Suffolk and has written a letter to the Boundary Committee expressing his views.

SUFFOLK'S chief constable believes it is vital that Lowestoft remains as part of Suffolk and has written a letter to the Boundary Committee expressing his views.

Simon Ash told The Journal this week that his reasons for entering the debate on the proposed local government changes were all to do with “practical policing issues” and he had no political points to make.

Meanwhile, the political rows over what form any new unitary authorities should take continue with Waveney District Council deputy leader Colin Law describing the county council's claim that a new single authority for Suffolk would save council tax payers £89m over five years as “utterly misleading”.

The Boundary Committee proposals for Suffolk would see Lowestoft coming under the control of a new unitary authority also covering the whole of Norfolk.

Mr Ash believes that if this proposal was to go ahead it would have a serious impact on Suffolk Constabulary.

The constabulary could lose a third of its officers making it the smallest in the country.

“If Lowestoft was to come under the control of a Norfolk-based authority the Home Secretary could very well decide that those officers based in the town should also become part of Norfolk Constabulary. If that were to happen it would seriously reduce the number of officers in Suffolk and no doubt the debate on whether the constabulary should merge with another force would be re-opened,” he said.

Mr Ash said Suffolk Constabulary had an enviable record of policing in the county and he was keen that its many initiatives, including developing partnerships with other agencies and communities in Suffolk, should continue.

“I strongly believe that in order to deliver a local, effective and efficient policing service to Suffolk as a whole, Lowestoft must remain in the county whichever option of unitary authority is finally agreed,” he said.

The chief constable said that if Lowestoft remained under Suffolk control he could work with either of the alternative options being put forward.

Suffolk County Council is supporting a single unitary authority for Suffolk while the majority of district councils want to see three unitary authorities _ east, west, and a combined Ipswich-Felixstowe based authority.

“I believe Suffolk Constabulary can work with either of the alternative proposals although if pressed I would have to support a single unitary authority as I would not want senior officers having to present the same report to three separate authorities,” said Mr Ash.

Both Suffolk County Council and the district councils are agreed that Lowestoft should remain under Suffolk control but that is the only item they do agree on.

Andrea Hill, chief executive of Suffolk County Council, said this week that a single unitary authority offered the best solution to the people of Suffolk including Lowestoft.

She reaffirmed the county council's commitment to the Waveney Campus project and to supporting calls for the Government to build a third crossing in the town.

“Lowestoft and Suffolk would have a much stronger voice in national terms with one authority. The county council has always wanted Lowestoft to remain in Suffolk; now we have a strong business case that shows it's better financially to keep Lowestoft in,” she said.

Ms Hill said that a single Suffolk council would deliver savings of £89m over a five-year period if Lowestoft was to remain in the county but this would be reduced to £68m if the town were to come under Norfolk control.

Yesterday, Waveney District Council accused the county council of “manipulating figures” to grab headlines.

“We simply do not know where this figure comes from and it bears no relation to the net savings that a new unitary authority would generate,” said deputy leader Colin Law.

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