With 65 newly trained Bedfordshire Police officers out on patrol, 94% of officers in the county are deployed in ‘visible frontline roles’ according to HMIC’s definition. This places Bedfordshire at the top of the league compared to other police forces in England and Wales and delivers the visible policing that the public tell me they value so much, even at a time when Government funding reductions mean the overall size of the force is falling.
I am assured that our plans to more than double the size of the volunteer Special Constabulary are proceeding apace, even though some have now become full-time officers.
The Specials, who have been doing an invaluable job for over a century, help to increase police visibility.
One of my first decisions was to reverse a 33% cut in the number of Bedfordshire PCSOs imposed by the former Police Authority, to help protect the frontline. However this came at a cost, with a small increase in the amount of council tax paid towards policing, the result of ongoing cuts, year after year, to the Government’s police grant, which equates to around 70% of our total income. However, in Bedfordshire we pay less locally towards policing than the average elsewhere and I believe that people are prepared pay a little more council tax if it means more police and PCSOs on their streets.
So, what else has changed since I arrived at Bedfordshire Police Headquarters in November 2012? At that point the force was on course to achieve the Government’s savings target and was still managing to cut recorded crime, but people told me it was becoming far less visible in our communities, with the frontline stretched almost to breaking point. Now we have a sustainable medium term financial plan; the crimes that matter most to people such as burglary, robbery and serious violence are being tackled.
Added to this the progress being made to improve the diversity of our police; the prioritisation of issues such as hate crime; and the innovative work to improve services for victims of crime in the county, I believe that I have made a positive difference as Bedfordshire’s PCC.
whilst costing less than the Police Authority I replaced.