PCC: “Come to the Rayleigh Essex Police Challenge to make your views heard”
ESSEX Police is facing huge financial challenges and as a result the Chief Constable and I have had to put forward some tough proposals affecting police stations and staff.
And public feelings about those proposals – which include plans to reduce the county’s 250 PCSOs to 60 and our police station front counters from 25 to 10 with a possible loss of police staff roles from 98 to 36 – are running high.
My office has understandably received many letters from concerned residents, councillors and MPs whilst at several of my public meetings the strength of feeling from the public, particularly around the proposed loss of PCSOs, has been vocal and tangible.
At my most recent Essex Police Challenge event in Brentwood last month– an event which I designed to enable me to hold the Chief Constable to account in public and invite questions from the audience – passions also ran high with people travelling from as far away as Witham and Wickford to make their views on the proposals heard.
Whilst many members of the audience made impassioned pleas for keeping their PCSOs and police stations, one gentleman raised a valid point that resonated with me. The man said that given the scale of the proposed cuts and what it will mean for residents he didn’t understand why more people had not turned up to the meeting to have their say. Whilst the Brentwood meeting was in no way poorly attended I would encourage people to take this opportunity and attend the next Essex Police Challenge this week in Rayleigh.
The Essex Police Challenge event provides a rare opportunity for members of the public to come face to face with the Chief Constable and me and to have their questions answered. We know and expect that many of those questions will be difficult. I feel however that it is important that we are able to provide members of the public with this opportunity and to present to them the financial challenges faced by their police force and really help them understand the rationale behind these tough proposals.
Essex Police is expected to have to find savings in the region of around £60million by 2019/20. Given that 83% of Essex Police’s budget is spent on staff it is sadly inevitable that there will have to be a reduction in the size of the force’s workforce.
In order to find just a small part of those savings, the Chief Constable has put forward proposals to reduce the number of PCSOS employed by Essex Police. Furthermore many of the force’s 80 buildings are ageing and in a poor state of repair, requiring £30million of maintenance to bring them up to standard. In this financial climate there is no room to keep under-used buildings requiring expensive maintenance. Even though funds are tight we must also invest so that Essex police is kept fit to face the future.
When the Chief Constable and I announced these proposals last month, we pledged a three-month period of engagement with the public to hear their views, and in many cases concerns about these plans. The Essex Police Challenge event in Rayleigh forms part of this engagement and it is for this reason that I encourage any residents who care about policing in Essex to come along this Thursday. I cannot promise that people will like what they hear, I cannot claim that proposals to reduce PCSO posts or close police station front counter will be reversed, but I can claim that you will learn more about the financial and policing challenges which face us, and that you will be able to ask your questions, make your views known and be part of the debate about Essex Police’s future.
Police & Crime Commissioner for Essex
The Essex Police Challenge will take place on Thursday November 12, from 7:30pm to 9:30pm, at The Sweyne Park School, Sir Walter Raleigh Drive, Rayleigh, Essex, SS6 9BY
To submit a question for the PCC email: [email protected]
Nick Alston will aim to ensure that as many questions are possible are answered during the Essex Police Challenge events. The video recording of the Essex Police Challenge event held in Brentwood on October 29 can be watched here