CLOSING police stations, reducing officer numbers and sharing resources with other forces are being considered as Cambridgeshire police prepares to cut £9million from its budget.

EXPECT to see fewer bobbies on the beat, the deputy chief constable of Cambridgeshire warned this week, as the force looks to make millions of pounds worth of savings.

The Government’s regime of slashing budgets to pay off the national deficit could see about £9million taken out of next year’s budget for Cambridgeshire and an estimate that up to £33m will need to be saved over the following four years.

The force, which had a budget of £130m, is currently consulting on how savings can be made, but nothing has been ruled out.

Closing police stations, reducing officer numbers and sharing resources with other forces are all on the table.

And even a rule change to allow police officers to be made redundant is likely to be discussed by the Home Office and Association of Chief Police Officers, as police forces around the country cut spending.

On Monday, Deputy Chief Constable John Feavyour told The Hunts Post that civilian staff, officers and PCSOs’ jobs would all be affected as the force responds to the Government’s request to cut spending.

Mr Feavyour estimated that about 200 jobs could be at risk in the current wave of cuts.

He added that even with some staff taking early retirement, a halt on recruitment, and a pay freeze – which are some of the saving suggestions being put forward – it was likely jobs would have to go.

The public, he said, would notice fewer police officers on the streets, and added that the closure of police stations could also not be ruled out.

“I cannot rule out that police officer posts won’t be affected,” he said. “The public won’t see much difference early on but, as officer numbers reduce either through natural wastage or not recruiting, people will notice fewer police on their streets.

“It is inevitable that drastic cuts will be needed at every level in the force. The challenge is still responding to priority and emergency calls.”

He said he could not guarantee that an officer would be available to attend every incident, but added: “When the public need us, we will be there.

“My number one priority is to protect life and property. If someone calls us and needs our help, we will respond. We just have to work out how to reorganise ourselves so that we can.”

The force’s cost-cutting consultation was launched on Friday (August 13). It has already had to make “unprecedented” savings of £1.2m earlier this year which resulted in more than 20 redundancies and a pay freeze affecting 50 posts.

The expectation that the budget could be cut by as much as £33m is frightening for the force - it’s the equivalent of sacking all of the support staff (about 1,000) or 1,100 police offices (out of 1,400).

About a third of the force’s funding is provided by central Government and a third comes from Council Tax. But the Government is skint and it has also ruled that there should be no increase in Council Tax, meaning this source of funding cannot be used to help plug the gap.

Mr Feavyour said maintaining high levels of service would continue to be a top priority.

“The performance of Cambridgeshire police is better than it has ever been and we want to maintain that. It is not the case of needing police everywhere at all times to have an effective crime-tackling machine,” he said.

Chief Superintendent Nigel Trippett is heading a financial savings team which has been charged to “look at every option for cutting cost”.

Visits are being made to police stations asking officers and staff to recommend where savings can be made.

Mr Feavyour said he had been impressed with the response so far, with “everyone understanding the tough challenges ahead”.

He said already some staff had offered to reduce their working hours to save jobs.

“This is going to be a painful process and we cannot make these cuts without deleting posts,” he said. “This is not the type of business the police is used to and this is not the type of business we want to be in.”

In addition to job losses, Mr Feavyour said they would be looking at “creative cost-cutting” which could mean working more closely with other forces to pool resources. This could include sharing the force helicopter and taking a collaborative approach to services, including HR, finance and internal investigations.

He also said the force’s fleet was under review to see if money could be saved by moving to greener vehicles.

Mr Feavyour said the cost-cutting process would follow three guiding principles: To save money, to minimise impact on performance and to be as open as possible.

“I am confident that if we remain properly focused we can survive and improve but in order to do that we must ask not only officers and staff but also the people we serve for their ideas and views.”

Cambridgeshire Police Authority, which is closely involved in the cost cutting work, agrees.

Chairman Ruth Rogers said: “The police authority is clear that it is essential for the force to remain citizen focused and not lose sight of its commitment to delivering the best service possible.”

Work to consult officers and staff will continue over the coming months with a meeting planned for force headquarters in Huntingdon today (Wednesday).

Mr Feavyour added: “We believe that honesty is the best policy and we will be as open as we can with everyone, including the public.”

In figures:

£3.20: The cost of Cambridgeshire police service per person per week

£46.49m: Funding from Council Tax money

£29.17m: Funding from business rates

£4.24m: Funding from general Government grant

£50.10m: Funding from police grant

£5.33m: Funding from other grants

£2.47m: Funding from income

Spending:

£95.19m: Spent on employees

£14.82m: Spent on police pensions

£4.54m: Spent on buildings

£2.04m: Spent on transport

£17.80m: Spent on supplies and service

£2.93m: Spent on capital financing

£0.48m: Spent on revenue contributions to capital