Further funding cuts could cripple policing on Tyneside and take bobbies off the beat.
That is the claim of Northumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) who says the force has been squeezed to the limit.
Vera Baird has today revealed the highs and lows of her first two years in office after being voted in as our area’s first elected police boss.
And in the first of a two part interview the Labour commissioner tells how the cuts in central Government funding have left the force with nothing left to save.
Now as she moves into the second half of her first term in the post Mrs Baird says she’s proud of what she and the force have achieved so far, and she is determined to continues to do all she can to meet the public’s policing priorities.
But the PCC warned that any further budget cuts could threaten the commitment to maintaining the number of cops working on the frontline.
“The concern about money is huge. We have rung out every last penny from everything we can without taking cops off the frontline. In the neighbourhood has got to be where they stay. If there are any further cuts we will do out best not to touch the frontline. But where we go next is a mystery.”
At the start of this year Northumbria Police announced that it was being forced into a major re-structure after learning that a new wave of central government funding cuts mean the force will be required to save an additional £46m by March 2017.
This came on top of a previous rationalisation of the force following the coalition Government’s austerity measures.
In order to balance the books in January Chief Constable Sue Sim announced to closure and sale of 25 police buildings, including 12 police stations. Neighbourhood officers in the areas affected will instead work from cheaper buildings, such as leisure centres, which can be shared with other organisations.
Northumbria will also reduce its number of ‘area commands’ from six to three, and plans to slash 200 senior officer and 230 civilian staff posts from the payroll.
Mrs Baird says she is confident the plans put in place will enable the force to continue policing effectively. But she admits money is tight.
“The Chief Constable is a very good business woman as well as being a very good police officer,” she said. “It’s absolutely essential that cops stay out in the neighbourhood, It’s good for the community and they are a massive source of intelligence
“What they need is a place to clock in, a place to keep their weaponry secure and they need a base where they are available to the public.
“Crime has changed over the years. We now have cyber crime and there is an increase in reporting of things like rape. At the moment we are managing. We are coping but it is obviously a challenge. But we can’t allow crime to go on. Cutting costs has to be about doing stuff smarter.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 10 Nov 2014
The English Defence League is to march through Newcastle’s West End, despite objections from police.
Northumbria Police’s Chief Constable Sue Sim fears tomorrow’s demonstration will cause distress to residents.
> Well, yes… that’s their whole intention, isn’t it ? That’s why they’re not marching through Gosforth or Jesmond.
However, the far-right group has refused to compromise with the force and change its route so tomorrow’s march will go ahead.
Chief Cons Sim said: “Northumbria Police has been speaking to organisers from the English Defence League for a number of weeks following their announcement that they want to hold a march in Newcastle on Saturday, May 17.
“The EDL expressed an intention to march in the West End of the city through a highly populated, residential area. We have made our position clear that we do not support this as the impact on the local community is too great. It poses a risk to public safety, will cause people fear in their own homes and create significant disruption as people try to go about their daily lives.
“Northumbria Police has always tried to facilitate peaceful protest and has worked with the EDL in the past to agree suitable routes for them to march and protest. We also regularly work with other groups with a range of opposing views to agree routes for marches and protest locations.
“Regrettably, this time EDL organisers have not been prepared to compromise on an alternative route, although we would remind them we are still prepared to discuss alternatives.
“Those planning to attend should be aware there has been no agreement with police with regards to meeting points or route locations.”
Protest group Newcastle Unites has also spoken to police about marching through the West End tomorrow.
And after discussions the route of this demonstration was altered.
Mrs Sim has vowed that officers will be out on the streets to ensure all protests pass peacefully and that residents’ safety will be a priority.
She added: “We have an excellent history of harmonious relations between all our communities and the public should rest assured that their safety remains our priority. We will not allow anything to disrupt their way of life or any marches to take place in residential areas.
“Our neighbourhood officers, known to local communities, together with other officers will be out and about in the run up to and throughout Saturday to reassure local people and answer any questions they may have.
“We have also been working with representatives of the local community and partners in the run up to the weekend.
“We do expect Saturday to be extremely busy in Newcastle but it will be ‘business as usual’. There are a number of events going on in the city centre and surrounding areas but there is no need for anyone to change their plans or avoid the city.”
Northumbria Police’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Vera Baird is now appealing to the EDL to get in touch.
She said: “The Chief Constable has made an operational decision that no march or demonstration should be allowed in the west end of Newcastle on March 17, and, although I do not make operational decisions, as the Police and Crime Commissioner I agree and support her wholeheartedly.
“Few people would wish to have their communities disrupted in that way, including probably those who want to protest.
“In previous demonstrations, protests and marches by the English Defence League (EDL), they have accepted the request to discuss the route and the details with Northumbria Police, who have a good history of protecting the right to protest whilst ensuring that people who are not involved are not seriously inconvenienced.
“It is disappointing that the EDL have refused to give details of their plans to the police.
“I would appeal to them to make contact now and agree reasonable arrangements as usual.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 16 May 2014