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Thursday, 02 July 2015

Police will still protect despite crippling budget cuts pledge

A TOP-ranking officer has moved to reassure the people of West Cumbria that the police will still be able to protect them, despite crippling budget cuts.

Steve Johnson
Ch Supt Steve Johnson

The comments follow claims that police are disappearing from parts of Workington, leaving estates more vulnerable to crime.

Workington councillors and community leaders launched a petition last month to protest about a reduction of PCSOs and police officers in Moorclose, Westfield, Harrington, Salterbeck and Moss Bay.

Chief Superintendent Steve Johnson admitted that “tough choices” lay ahead as Cumbria’s police force battles to cut spending by up to £20m.

But West Cumbria’s police chief denied that changes to the way the force was run would affect response times, the number of police on the streets or their ability to protect communities.

He said: “The reason for the changes is to keep the community safe.

“I am absolutely committed to keeping them as safe as I possibly can.

“I will continue to push to make sure that every officer and staff member is doing their utmost to serve the communities of West Cumbria.

“Having said that, we know that we are going to have to cope with less and that we have to take our fair share of pain.

“My job is to use the resources we have been given more effectively to try to maintain the same level of service.”

The changes will see neighbourhood policing teams merge to form larger units covering a wider area.

Workington and Maryport will form the Allerdale borough team while Cockermouth, Keswick and Wigton will form Allerdale rural.

Areas like Seaton and Northside will still have a dedicated community police officer.

Ch Supt Johnson added: “There will be the same number of officers. We are just dividing them differently.”

The changes will see officers sharing premises with other groups as some police stations are closed, although three main stations in Workington, Maryport and Whitehaven will remain operational.

Allerdale councillor Peter Bales said that the force closed a base at the Minto Centre in Westfield earlier this month and claimed that the number of officers patrolling Workington estates had fallen.

But Ch Supt Johnson said: “The Minto Centre was never a police station. These people are just as committed now as they were in the Minto Centre.

“There is no reduction in the service although it was nice to be in the heart of the community. There is still a dedicated patrol.

“I can either pay rent on a building or reinvest that and maintain the officer numbers that I have.

“Every public pound spent on a building I don’t particularly need is a pound that could be spent on a police officer out and about in the community. That is the harsh reality.”

Ch Supt Johnson said that changes in officers’ shift patterns would lead to more police on the beat during peak times when the changes come in early next year.

He added that mobile computer devices phased in over three years will allow police to be on patrol for longer without having to return to the station.

No job losses are expected, but the force is subject to a recruitment freeze.

l People can talk about policing levels at the Safer, Stronger Communities meeting on Thursday, December 9, at 7pm in Moorclose Community Centre.

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