The future of the Essex Police property estate
The Essex Police estate totals 1.25million square foot and some 80 properties. Many of the current buildings are old, in need of extensive and expensive maintenance and no longer fit for the demands and purposes of modern policing. This is a legacy I have inherited.
The backlog of maintenance work required to these buildings has been estimated at £30m, with an additional £1.75m per year needed to maintain and keep the estate in its current condition. That is no small total, particularly with the financial challenges already facing Essex Police, as central government funding continues to reduce. In light of that, these ongoing costs cannot be justified and it is necessary for the Chief Constable and me to make some tough decisions on the future of police buildings, including stations.
A review of the options available to us is nearing completion, but no final decisions have yet been made. The sale of some police stations, the reduction of the size of the Chelmsford-based force Headquarters, and the possible creation of centralised policing hubs in each local authority area are all being considered.
For me the issue of the Essex Police property estate is two-fold. The first consideration is about ensuring policing is effective and efficient. Our police force is facing many new and emerging challenges, particularly from online crime such as grooming and fraud, and we need technology and modern buildings that equip officers with all the tools they need to tackle those issues, not ageing premises in need of investment that could be better spent fighting these crimes.
As new technology such as mobile data terminals – modified laptops with access to police systems – are rolled out across the force, it is increasingly the case that the officers who respond to an incident are already on the ground. Modern police officers are not routinely based at police stations but out on the streets of Essex responding to incidents in a dynamic way.
Secondly this is very much about working in partnership with the community. In some areas of Essex, such as Tiptree and Brightlingsea, police are already successfully sharing accommodation with the Fire Service to positive effect. Moving forward we have to work with local authorities and our community safety partners to explore further similar possibilities. But what will be key to any decisions taken is that our police are best placed and best equipped to deliver quality and accessible policing to the communities they serve.
Nick Alston, Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex
Papers for the Police and Crime Panel meeting of January 29, which include details of the proposed precept increase, can be read online here: