Surrey Police Chief Constable response to budget cuts

Effingham Residents Association web editor asked Chief Constable Lynne Owens to comment of budget cuts following the response we received from Police and Crime Commissioner Kevin Hurley

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My role, as Chief Constable, is to constantly review the service we supply to people in Surrey based on the threats and risks within the available budget. So, in answer to your questions about the impact of finances on policing, it remains a constantly evolving picture. The Force has had a diminishing budget for a number of years and has therefore been taking steps throughout that time to make ourselves more efficient whilst examining the demand for our services so that we respond effectively to the changing pressures. Whilst we are proud of our success in reducing crime in many areas (notably burglary of peoples’ homes which have been reducing year on year throughout this period) we are seeing a change in the complexity of the matters we deal with. For example we have a significant increase in reported domestic abuse and historic sexual assault cases, we know that many crimes are under reported (particularly hate crime and cybercrime), we have only an embryonic understanding of the extent of child sexual exploitation across the County and we know we are seeing an increase in demand for our services (calls to our 101 telephone number went up by 4% last year.)

Against this changing backdrop we have to be clear with other public sectors that we cannot pick up their core responsibilities anymore; we appear to have shrunk apart rather than together creating gap. However simply walking away would leave the public vulnerable and that is not acceptable to any of us. We are, therefore, working more closely with other emergency services and partner agencies to understand the gaps and overlaps in services we provide, ensuring they are covering core responsibilities and reducing additional impact on policing. Practical examples would be identifying places of safety for people in crisis rather than police custody cells and responding in a timely way to call outs for child and adult social care workers so officers can get back out on patrol more quickly.

We are also collaborating with Sussex Police and other Forces in the region. In both traditional back office (HR, ICT etc) and in more specialist operational areas we share resources when that reduces costs and improves or sustains performance. At the same time we have also been investing in new equipment such as mobile data terminals to increase efficiency so officers do not have to return to a computer to update records nor tie up an operator in our call handling centre accessing systems on their behalf. This is a key plank of our work to improve our 101 call handling performance against the explained backdrop of increased calls.

It is an undeniable fact that with less budget Surrey Police is likely to employ less people and it is therefore important that we review our training provision so that all officers can be omni competent and leaders have the confidence to exercise discretion in the management of their teams. I have therefore, with the support of the Police and Crime Commissioner, allocated extra funds this year to better train and equip our people.

Decisions about funding are political issues so best not directly addressed during this period of Purdah, suffice to say we continue to work with the Police and Crime Commissioner to expose him to all we are doing and the changes in demand that I have explained to enable him to appropriately set the budget for Surrey Police. What I would say to all Surrey residents is that they should be in no doubt that I am determined to continue working to meet the challenge of delivering the best possible policing and keeping people safe but there is a need for public debate about the choices we may have to make and the challenges we face.