Today’s columnist, Neil Bowles: Police should join forces

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I wish you all a happy and peaceful New Year, even though it was a busy and not too peaceful start for the police.

Our call handlers received nearly 1,000 calls from the public, between 9pm on New Year’s Eve and 5am the next morning, most of which resulted in incidents being recorded and officers attending them throughout the county.

These ranged from a murder and serious assaults to drink-related public order, to a number of frivolous calls.

The calls after midnight saw a 9 per cent increase on their own.

I am led to believe that in the next financial year South Yorkshire Police will still have to make £4-10 million pounds of more cuts (sorry savings).

So much for George Osborne’s promise to protect the police. This is dependent on the maximum amount being added to the council precept. That means that all householders in South Yorkshire will have to pay more, as they have for the last few years, for a vastly reduced service.

Collaboration continues to gather pace. Anything that does not need to be done at a local level, is up for grabs to share with other forces and organisations.

The Home Office has taken over as the government department responsible for the fire and rescues services, and indeed the Police & Justice Minister is now also the Fire Minister.

Here in Maltby the police and fire service are to share the station at Hellaby.

Some forces already have a combined fire and police patrol function, while others have trained up their PCSOs as retained firefighters.

The Home Secretary is still talking about extending the Police & Crime Commissioner’s role to include taking over governance of local fire and rescue services.

Is this mixing of services good for the public? Or will it just lead to confusion, poorer service and more complaints? Only time will tell.

I personally think that collaboration is just toying with the problem. We need to think bigger than that if we are to solve the funding problems.

Why do we need four Police & Crime Commissioners (and their entourages) for Yorkshire and the Humber? Four Chief Constables, four Deputy Chief Constables, 10 Assistant Chief Constables, four directors of finance and two HR directors?

The duplication and bureaucracy this requires is staggering.

We need to bite the bullet and amalgamate the four forces, whilestill having in place the power and protections for local decisions to be made by local officers for their communities.

The long-term savings to be made by amalgamations across the country would allow for more constables to police local areas.

Some would argue that officers would get drawn away from rural areas to cover higher demand urban areas, but that already happens on a smaller scale within our four boroughs, and would have to be managed properly.

I would just like to close by congratulating PC Zuleika Payne on her award of the Queen’s Police Medal for her extraordinary work with communities in Rotherham.

It is a very rare event for this award to go to rank and file officers and it is even rarer for a federation representative, so well done Zuleika, you have made us all in South Yorkshire Police proud of your achievements.

* Neil Bowles, Chair of South Yorkshire Police Federation