Scrutiny panel backs more investment for Sussex Police
Katy Bourne, the county’s Police & Crime Commissioner, has welcomed the cross-party vote of support from the Sussex Police & Crime Panel members today (29 January) to increase the police precept by an extra £15 per year, per household (for an average band D property). There were 17 members in favour, one against and one abstention.
PCC Bourne has worked closely with the Chief Constable and her senior team to understand in detail the operational needs of Sussex Police for this coming year. The Force’s analysis of the demands on local policing, investigations and the need for even more tougher enforcement to reduce criminality has led them to request investment in the following:
- Continued increase of policing presence in our towns and villages
- Further investment into the Rural Crime Team and Roads Policing
- More Detectives and Investigators
- A Public Confidence Team to resolve issues swiftly
- Better use of data and intelligence to identify and catch criminals
- Joint operations with other Forces (including the Met Police) to tackle drugs and shut down County Lines
- More officers to manage the highest harm perpetrators
- Expand local investigation and resolution centres to work closely with victims
- A Digital Investigation Programme to improve the capture of online evidence
The decision to increase the police precept to fund operational policing was made after substantial online public consultation by PCC Bourne, including 64 focus groups with parish, town and district councillors and interested parties. Feedback showed a majority of residents would pay a little more for policing if they felt the benefit locally and saw more visible policing.
PCC Bourne began testing public opinion on a proposed increase in early December with a survey on policing priorities and police funding. To reach out to younger residents she also developed a policing challenge game with the same questions and opportunities to rank crime concerns. Over 4,500 people responded with 70% in favour of paying more.
At today’s meeting, the financial challenges of the last year were discussed, including the £7.3m cost of policing the pandemic. The Government will reimburse £4.9m but that still leaves Sussex Police facing a savings requirement of £2.4m over the next 12 months. This pressure has also contributed to the decision made today.
Commenting after the meeting, Mrs Bourne said: “I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the residents and local representatives who took the time to talk to me over the year and those who also engaged with my surveys and online feedback channels.
“This has been such an incredibly challenging year and I have not disregarded or underestimated the economic hardship that some find themselves in at this time. However, it is vital to ensure that our police force, our frontline throughout this pandemic and beyond, is supported and that residents continue to receive the best possible policing service.
“I’m grateful the Panel recognised that I have listened carefully to residents’ needs and balanced those with the Chief Constable’s operational requirements. With their support today, further investments can now be made in increased enforcement, more investigation and in the introduction of efficient technological advances that will save operational policing time.
“Sussex Police has continued with recruitment throughout this year, despite the challenges incurred by the pandemic, and our Chief Constable has shown a welcome determination to keep providing the extra boots on the ground and visible policing in our communities that residents have asked for and value so highly.
“Officers and staff have not only been successfully policing this pandemic but, from last year’s precept investments, Sussex Police has also launched different specialist teams that have supported our rural communities, helped to protect our local high streets, taken some of the most wanted criminals off our streets and safeguarded hundreds of vulnerable victims.
“This investment will help Sussex Police to continue on that upward trajectory and I will continue to monitor their progress closely.”
Chief Constable Jo Shiner commented: “I welcome the additional local investment that will be used to further strengthen our service, which to date has seen more enforcement teams, more investigators and greater community engagement.
“In these unprecedented times, this additional funding will help us to continue to meet increasing and changing demand while continuing to relentlessly pursue justice for victims of crime.
“We will use the additional funding to strengthen our partnership response to tackling county lines criminality and exploitation, alongside more investment in our ability to protect the public from the most dangerous offenders. Alongside more investigators and more supervisors, we will continue to invest in our rural crime and anti-corruption capabilities. We will invest in public confidence, providing a dedicated team to listen to complaints, comments and compliments. The Public Confidence Team will ensure issues are resolved swiftly and effectively, and alongside this we will also invest in engagement, securing new ways for the public to give us feedback and expanding the way we listen to victims’ experiences, such as surveying by text message.
“We will invest in technology by enhancing and improving how we capture digital evidence and adopting a smarter approach to low-harm, high-volume crime investigation to ensure more offenders are brought to justice. We will develop our analytics capability to gain new insights into criminal networks and generate capacity by using intelligent automation across our business.
“We are committed to protecting our communities, catching criminals and delivering an outstanding service.”
If you missed the panel meeting today you can watch it on the Police & Crime Panel website, or if you have any questions about the policing precept you can see PCC Bourne’s answers to the most frequently asked questions or submit your own question.
PCC Bourne has also published the results of her online surveys.