Wednesday, 17 August 2022

Cuts force police into rethink

POLICE officers will no longer regularly attend meetings of parish councils in the Henley area due to cuts.

Instead, a new group is being set up made up of parish council chairmen and district and county councillors as well as police officers, firefighters, housing officers and representatives of other bodies.

It will meet quarterly, starting either next month or in June.

The idea has come from Sgt Neil Anns, the neighbourhood police chief for the Henley area.

He has written to members of Oxfordshire County Council and South Oxfordshire District Council as well as town and parish councils outlining the plan.

Sgt Anns said: “I can no longer afford to have officers attending meetings due to reduced establishment numbers and I am sure you have seen the drop-off in this engagement in the last few years. I know I cannot solve many problems on my own and multi-agency partnerships are the best way forwards.”

Sgt Anns, who started in February, said a similar forum had been effective when he worked in Aylesbury before he moved to South Oxfordshire.

He said: “Many of you may have seen similar concepts before but my aim is to remove the need to attend parish councils regularly but maintain our engagement with yourselves and bring some partners in such as fire, housing and other interest groups.”

The group would discuss issues highlighted by the councils and members of the public.

Sgt Anns said: “I am under no illusion that this will be a simple task but it is not unachievable.

“We will be able to ensure the right people are in a room talking about the issues, how we can problem-solve, who is taking responsiblity for the problem-solving and also ensure we, the police, are fully informed as you folks are.”

Since 2010 the Thames Valley Police budget has been cut by £99 million.

The force has a budget of £405million for 2018/19 but over the next three years will save another £14.3million.

It currently has the equivalent of 4,077 full-time officers, compared with 4,434 in 2010.

The public information desk at Henley police station in Greys Road was closed in April 2016, which saved about £21,000 by closing the counter. It was one of 18 front counters across the force area to be shut.

At the time police said most members of the public now contacted them by phone or online rather than in person.

The police office in Lea Road, Sonning Common, closed earlier this year, saving £9,000 a year. The site has been valued at £85,000.

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