Monday, 14 February 2011

Thames Valley Police Pledge To Protect Neighbourhood Policing in Reading

This evening we received a presentation from Sara Thornton, Chief Constable of Thames Valley Police. Over the past few months we have rightly focussed on Council spending and building a sustainable budget for the coming year in the fact of big reductions in our grant settlement.
This evening we gained an insight into the budget-making process Thames Valley Police has been going through, as well as local policing priorities.

Ms Thornton explained that the Force would need to make milllions of pounds worth of savings and confirmed the following in TVP's  budget plans over the coming four years:-
  • Frontline Police Officer numbers will protected from cuts
  • Neighbourhood Policing Teams will be protected and officer numbers maintained
  • 417 PCSO posts will be maintained
  • Savings will be found from rationalising back office and management functions e.g the Basic Command Unit management tier will be abolished
  • Efficiencies will be achieved by sharing services and more collaboration across areas
  • Number of Special Constables to be increased
  • ASB hotline to be improved
Given the significant savings TVP has to make it was encouraging to hear Ms Thornton confirm that Neighbourhood Policing remains top priority and that what she called 'visible policing' was also a priority - so contrary to recent scaremongering by Labour politicians according to the most senior Police Officer in our area Police officers will not be disappearing from our streets.

Obviously we will need to keep a close eye on local Policing services but I have every reason to believe Ms Thornton when she pledged to maintain Police numbers on the ground - a priority at both national and local level.

"101" Non-Emergency Number to be introduced soon
I asked Ms Thornton a couple of questions following her presentation.

Given 12 Neighbourhood Action Groups in Reading have identified anti-social behaviour as a priority what plans has Thames Valley Police in relation to continuing to respond effectively to anti-social behaviour?

Ms Thornton acknowledged the important role the Thames Valley Police Non-Emergency (0845 8 505 505) had played and said that TVP would be looking to introduce a universal reporting hotline telelphone "101" number in the coming weeks. This proposal was outlined in the recent Home Office consultation paper on anti-social behaviour published a few weeks ago.

This proposal was promised by Labour but never delivered. I hope it will lead to a better, simpler reporting mechanism for residents.

I also asked Ms Thornton about Neighbourhood Policing, in particular how we can encourage more community involvement in areas where there is low public confidence in Policing. I was thinking of my local Whitley North Neighbourhood Police Area when I asked this where we have struggled to attract public support.
Ms Thornton said she believed "One size does not fit all when it comes to Neighbourhood Policing". She reiterated her previous statement that Neighbourhood Policing would continue to be a top priority of the local force. I agree with her on this. What works in Tilehurst does not necessarily work in Whitley and the Police needs to identify what works best for residents. I was pleased to hear her response.

Her colleague new Reading Area Commander Stuart Greenfield said he planned to promote and publicise the good work done by Neighbourhood Action Groups and Police teams to build public confidence - I think this will help get the message across to residents about why it helps to get involved.

My colleague Cllr Kirsten Bayes challenged Ms Thornton about what TVP are doing to tackle burglary in East Reading - a big problem in our ward. I was pleased to hear her say that the Police should work more closely with landlords who manage HMOs and student lets. I will also see what more RBC can do in this area wearing my Housing hat.

Both Chief Sup. Greenfield and Ms Thornton warmly welcomed new crime maps which Ms Thornton said would help residents keep the Police and Council 'on our toes.'

Five years since Neighbourhood Policing was first introduced in Reading I am pleased to hear Thames Valley Police and the Government have no plans to scrap it. It was reassuring too to hear that frontline Police numbers will not be reduced in Reading.

We are very lucky to have such committed officers working to tackle crime issues in our area. We are also lucky to have officers in the local Police force who are willing to attend Council meetings to account for the way in which they plan to spend public money in an honest and open way.

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