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Highland Life / News / Northern Constabulary News / Northern Constabulary unveils budget proposals - EMBARGOED UNTIL 00:01 12 OCTOBER

Northern Constabulary unveils budget proposals - EMBARGOED UNTIL 00:01 12 OCTOBER

Issued: 11 Oct 2010

Northern Constabulary has unveiled proposals for addressing the anticipated budget cuts of almost £5million over the coming years.

The exact scale of the cuts will not be known until November 2010, however the Force has been preparing for these, working to the planning assumptions agreed by ACPOS, based on guidance from Scottish Government Officials. These indicate budget cuts across the next four years amounting to 9%, 5%, 5% and 5% which means that the Force requires to make savings of £4,714,941 to meet the 2011/12 target.

These are potentially extraordinary cuts, which have not been seen in modern times and have necessitated a consistent focus to assist the Force in developing a deliverable efficiency plan of cash cuts to balance the budget for 2011/12 and onwards.

Board members and staff have been informed of a range of work which has been undertaken to allow the Force to meet these anticipated budget cuts. Proposals include changes in relation to the delivery of front counter reception services, call handling and rationalisation of police stations and property.

Chief Constable Ian Latimer said: "Policing and indeed the whole of the public sector is facing unprecedented financial challenges over the coming months and years.

"Northern Constabulary has carried out a significant amount of planning and preparation which puts us in a better position to address these challenges than many other forces or organisations. We are already highly efficient and have maximised resources into frontline policing over the past 2 years.

"The proposals which have been put to the Police Board aim to achieve savings and efficiencies, whilst allowing the Force to maintain police officer numbers at the highest possible level and continue to provide visible, localised policing services across the Highlands and Islands area."

There has been a focus on identifying savings which involve the use of shared buildings, and in some instances joint working arrangements with local authorities and other agencies. Opportunities for sharing existing offices are being explored at a number of locations demonstrating cross-public sector collaboration which also allows for the joint provision of services and shared maintenance costs.

The Force currently has 59 operational police stations, one of these being provided within a shared service point in a Highland Council premises in Golspie. Where some station closures have been suggested, alternative methods of delivering services have been identified or are being explored. In many cases officers were being briefed and dispatched from larger premises nearby, and these smaller stations were to a significant extent standing empty.

In some cases the Force is exploring the potential to utilise premises occupied by partner agencies to allow for the deployment of well trained and well equipped officers, who will continue to work closely with local communities and allow the force to maintain current levels of visibility and engagement. This would allow resources to be targeted to meet local community needs and priorities. A joint approach could allow the force and partner agencies to maintain, and in some instances, enhance current levels of visibility at a number of locations.

It has been identified that there is a need to review our existing call handling and reception services strategy in an effort to realise potential efficiency savings. This means that, supported by detailed evidence, it is proposed that reception hours would be reduced during the night for a number of stations. During these hours, telephone calls would be diverted to divisional hubs, which would be staffed 24/7 at the Force Operations Centre, Wick and Fort William. Any stations without 24 hours staffing would have external telephones available.

The proposals are part of a number of measures which will allow the force to address the projected budget shortfall. They will go some way towards contributing to this efficiency programme, but a wide range of other measures will also be required to balance the budget.

The Force is currently consulting with staff and partners and over the next few weeks, senior officers will attend community meetings to discuss the proposals in detail. The proposals will then be considered, together with feedback, through the consultation process at the meeting of Northern Joint Police Board on 26 November. No decisions have been made or will be made until then.

Vice Convener of Northern Joint Police board, William J. Ross said: "As a Force and a Police Board we are facing unprecedented levels of funding cuts and it is vital we take a planned and structured approach to examining options and agreeing an approach which seeks to protect the delivery of community policing - this is what has contributed to Northern Constabulary being one of the highest performing police Forces in the UK.

"The levels of savings required are unpalatable and mean we must contemplate actions and changes which we would never have considered even some 12 months ago, but they are now sadly necessary and a "do-nothing" option does not exist."

Mr Latimer concluded: "Northern Constabulary is committed to a community model of policing which understands the needs of its communities across the Highlands and Islands and seeks to provide the best possible, high quality and effective service within the available funding."

© 2010 Highland Public Services Partnership.
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