CAMBRIDGESHIRE Police’s call centre could be merging with ones in Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire, as part of further cost-cutting measures.

CAMBRIDGESHIRE police's call centre could be merged with those in Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire as part of further cost-cutting measures.

Chief Constable Simon Parr revealed proposals to merge the centres along with the three forces' human resources and finance departments within the next 18 months.

But assurances were made that all three forces would remain distinct with only some operational divisions collaborating, such as the merging of the firearms support unit for the three counties.

Mr Parr said: "We are looking at our work with call handling. It is a big part of the interface with the public. When we pull together those three forces having those three call centres working day and night, is expensive.

"We can save that and the balance of the money will come from organisational support, who do not deliver a direct service to the public, such as HR and finance.

"We need to take these saving so we can protect the frontline. We are working with Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire, making sure we have the leanest way of working."

Mr Parr added that the people of Cambridgeshire will see a difference, but will not suffer because of the plans.

"They might see a different badges on the side of a car.," he said. "If you need the help that a police officer with a firearm can give you, you want it to come quickly and do the job it needs to do."

Cambridgeshire police has already made changes to its operations to help make savings. Replacing 24-hour reception desks at police stations with day or evening surgeries and providing appointments for callers rather than sending officers out, had saved thousands of man-hours, said Mr Parr.

The system is currently being used at 11 stations including Huntingdon, St Neots and St Ives, but plans are to extend it to more stations across the county.

"We are trying to encourage people to come out of their houses. Several hundred appointment slots are filled a week by people coming to see us. We want to capture that time and turn it into operational delivery and real work on the ground.

"We have had no complaints about the surgery and appointment system so far. We have to change the way we do business. Travelling time to a member of the public is time we need to spend elsewhere. If you want the police, you need to come and see us."

Around 120 petty offenders have also been dealt with through a new restorative justice system, in which victims of crime are given the chance to confront the culprits and determine the next course of action. They included a 20 year old shop-lifter who was made to sweep the floors at a Huntingdon shop after stealing £15 worth of items.

Mr Parr said the system had saved 1,000 man-hours since February and stopped expensive court procedures.

"It stops us treating everybody as a serious criminal when you are young. People can learn a lesson but none of it takes place without the express and written permission of the victim," he said.

The force is also looking to recruit another 60 special constables and increase the responsibility of existing volunteer officers.

nCambridgeshire police will be the subject of a new Sky One TV documentary entitled Cop Squad, which starts on May 30 at 9pm.