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Statement from Acting Police and Crime Commissioner, Ray Bisby regarding neighbourhood policing in Cambridgeshire

I know that when Chief Constable, Nick Dean first announced his proposals regarding changes to Neighbourhood Policing in October 2020, there were concerns around what this means for overall policing in our county.

The proposals aimed to manage the financial challenges faced by the Constabulary and reduce the budget gap for the financial year 2021/22 and beyond, predominantly through staff reductions, specifically community safety officers, enquiry office staff and PCSOs.

My role as Acting Police and Crime Commissioner regarding these proposed changes was to listen to the views and concerns of the public and to take these to the Chief Constable.

The Policing Protocol Order 2011 is clear that allocating police resources (including staff) is a matter for the Chief Constable and the Chief Constable alone.

It is the role of the Commissioner to ensure that the Chief Constable has considered the concerns of our communities and it would be misleading to public to imply that any Police and Crime Commissioner has any legal power to behave otherwise.

All the detail of the concerns raised and how the Chief Constable has responded to them will be published on the Commissioner’s website as well as in the minutes of the Commissioner’s business meeting held with the Chief Constable on 8th December.

Now that the Chief Constable has made his decision, I want to take this opportunity to reassure people that, in spite of some of the headlines, we actually have more police officers in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough than ever before.

Throughout austerity the Constabulary was able to keep police officer numbers high by making savings in other areas, other forces did not.  Since then, officer numbers have grown further, funded by both the local contribution people have made to policing through council tax and also the government “uplift” programme.

By March 21 we will have 1,559 officers, the highest ever in Cambridgeshire. We are then expecting about another 140 officers from the next 2 years of the uplift programme.

In discussing police officer numbers, I know that some people may feel a little sceptical about what that means in reality to policing on the ground. I would like to reassure people on that.

When the Chief Constable came to Cambridgeshire in 2018, HMICFRS (Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Policing and Fire and Rescue Services) had graded the Constabulary as ‘Requires Improvement’ in terms of its effectiveness in keeping people safe and reducing crime. ‘Good’ in how efficient it was in keeping people safe and reducing crime and ‘Good’ in terms of legitimacy.

Now the Constabulary is graded as ‘Good’ across all three of those areas.

Part of the reason for that improvement has been the commitment of the Chief Constable to neighbourhood policing and the additional police officers that he has put into our neighbourhoods, with 57 officers in neighbourhood teams in 2018, and now 132.

The public have raised concerns with me about the decision of the Chief Constable.

Both he and I also recognise the impact on the police staff affected by this. I have questioned him about all those concerns and he has explained to me that the reason for the changes is to save £1.7m to assist in reducing the forecasted deficit and to ensure the Constabulary is better positioned financially in the future, accepting the uncertainty of both future funding and the wider fragile economy.

He has also explained how the Constabulary will make a variety of other changes to fill any gaps left by losing these staff and continue to keep Cambridgeshire safe. He is also doing everything he can to support the police staff affected and look for ways they can move into other vacant roles within the Constabulary.

I will hold the Chief Constable to account for the impact of this decision in terms of neighbourhood policing effectiveness and public satisfaction.