Sunday, 6 December 2009

End the Centralisation of Surrey Police

On Saturday, I visited Cobham’s police station and talked to local police and civilian volunteers, coordinated by Ken Purssey (see below). I listened to local concerns about the threat to Cobham station – and wider services across Elmbridge – as a result of the efficiency drive within the Surrey force. The Chief Constable recently consulted the volunteers on the aims and implications of these changes - which was much appreciated - but there remains disquiet about potential cuts.

The truth is that the Surrey force is caught between a rock and a hard place. Real term funding for Surrey police has been slashed by almost 40% since 1997. The local budget was recently - and irresponsibly - capped by the Home Office. Chief Constable, Mark Rowley fought hard, including in court, to resist it. At the same time, police bureaucracy, red-tape and Whitehall box-ticking has inflated the amount of police time wasted on pen-pushing, when officers should be out on the street. The result of this Labour government’s reckless - top-down – approach to policing has inevitably led to cuts and consolidation in Surrey.

Regrettably, that is the big picture against which Surrey police is operating. The bottom line is that we must end the centralisation of policing – in Elmbridge, the county and across the wider country – which allows Whitehall’s target culture to warp local policing priorities, and now threatens police cuts in Surrey.

The Surrey force is looking to cut bureaucracy, reduce the number of senior officers and replace some police buildings with local access points in council offices, libraries and shopping centres. In short, they deem reductions in the police estate as necessary in order to maintain officer numbers. That is a finely-balanced decision. Understandably, the volunteers feel that they face the thin end of the wedge. They fear cuts to the policing outposts that they help to man, in an effort to keep policing as local as possible. That, after all, is what the public want. I have arranged meetings this side of Christmas with local police in Elmbridge, and the Chief Constable, to learn more. One particular issue I will raise is timing. Whilst funding would inevitably be tight under an incoming Conservative government, there would be a radical program of police reform. Our overarching aim is to cut police red-tape to free up officers for street patrols, slash the central government targets that distort common sense priorities and reduce the excessive audit and inspection regime. This overhaul will be bolstered by institutional reforms to strengthen local democratic control over policing priorities and budgets. Might the current decision-making in Surrey look different against the backdrop of such a wider program of police reform? The last thing we want to do is sell off police buildings that might help the drive towards local policing under a new government.

In the meantime, volunteers at Cobham police station - and across Elmbridge - are helping to mitigate the impact of Labour’s law enforcement failings. They are an inspiring testament to the strong civic pride and community spirit we have here in Elmbridge – which I will do everything I can to support.


Post a Comment

The site policy is to publish all comments, unless abusive or anonymous.

Welcome to Dom's Blog

To sign up for my monthly bulletins, click here.

For my Privacy & Cookies policy, click here.

Dom's Podcasts

Watch Dom's Hardtalk interview here.

To watch Dom's recent podcasts, visit his You Tube channel here.

Local Campaigns

Local issues, National debate

Blog Archive

Follow Dom on Facebook