Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 27th May 2015

Sussex Police have lost 400 frontline officers since 2010. Earlier this year it was announced that a further 500 frontline officers now have to go, leaving around 2,000 officers left to cover the whole of West Sussex, East Sussex and Brighton and Hove.

Then the General Election happened and now across the public sector all eyes are focused on 8th July when Osborne will deliver a revised budget. The Conservatives ran on a platform of an additional £30 billion worth of cuts to services and when ring-fencing and other election spending commitments are taken into account that means that some areas, such as policing, are going to have to take a much bigger hit on top of existing cuts.

Sussex Police have already announced that they are shifting to a new operating model, focusing on their role as an ‘emergency’ service. Having read the plan and spoken with senior officers I am still none the wiser as to what this actually means for Crawley residents.

Every time I ask if their model means a particular ‘non-emergency’ responsibility will no longer be carried out I am given assurances that it will be but I cannot see how it is possible within their suggested new role.

It’s the role of the Police and Crime Commissioner to hold the Police to account and as a member of the Police and Crime Panel I do my best to hold her to account in turn. Yet every time I ask a question about how the service is going to change and the impact upon residents I’m told that as an operational matter it isn’t up for discussion, this from the person who’s supposed to be standing up for us on policing issues.

If Sussex Police want to genuinely engage with the public and work alongside other agencies that means that they have to start being honest about what they are no longer going to do and if the Police and Crime Commissioner isn’t willing to ask the questions which need asking then the public are well justified in asking why we have one at all.

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