Uppingham could pay for its own PCSO

A police community support officer. EMN-141127-105210001
A police community support officer. EMN-141127-105210001

Uppingham could have its own dedicated policing staff if talks between force bosses and town representatives prove positive.

The potential for a special agreement between Uppingham and Leicestershire Police was one of a number of issues raised at a public meeting on Monday.

Chief Constable Simon Cole and Police and Crime Commissioner Sir Clive Loader answered questions from the public at Rutland County Council’s offices after explaining their plans to restructure the force.

Uppingham town councillor and neighbourhood forum co-ordinator Ron Simpson took the opportunity to ask Mr Cole about how the powers given to the town in the Localism Act 2011 could apply to policing.

“What we would like to do is have some dialogue with the force about the possibility of Uppingham putting more into the pot,” he said.

“We think community safety is important.”

Mr Simpson said he would be keen to discuss the possibility of putting extra money towards policing. The money could then be used to pay for extra measures such as a new police community support officer,.

Mr Cole was positive in his reply. He said: “We would really welcome that. We have relationships elsewhere. Some universities contribute to have dedicated resources in their area. They part- or fully-fund a PCSO that way.”

After the meeting, Mr Simpson said the next step was for groups in the town to discuss the possible options with the force.

“The town council already makes a contribution because we provide a police office,” he said.

“It may take a while to arrive at the right position. Would it be possible to retain some sort of officer in Uppingham?

“Could we have a service level agreement that says that person will remain here?”

One option to fund a new agreement could be to raise Uppingham’s police precept, which is the proportion of overall council tax that goes to the force. But that is just one possibility.

“It might be that we don’t pay more, but we try to tie them down on a service level agreement,” said Mr Simpson. “On the other hand it might be that we do pay more or make a contribution.”

Discussions on possible options will now be held between police, businesses, councillors and other groups.

Mr Cole said: “We like to explore these kind of reciprocal arrangements. We have already had similar in place with Leicester City Council and also some of the universities. It’s not uncommon.

“I would like to explore that in Uppingham.”

Mr Cole said the force already raised a high amount of income from specific events like football matches and festivals.

Chief tries to reassure public

Chief Constable Simon Cole began Monday’s meeting by trying to reassure the public that the force restructure would mean more visible officers on the streets.

The plan, which Mr Cole hopes will save £15.4m by 2017, focuses on keeping neighbourhood officers on patrol for as much of their shifts as possible.

“At the moment neighbourhood teams are spending about half of their time on the ground and half of their time doing other things,” said the Chief Constable. “I want them to be out and about and visible, solving problems.”

Under the new model the neighbourhood teams would hand over to an investigation unit following an arrest. They would then go back on the beat or to their next appointment.

There will also be dedicated county-wide teams to focus on particular areas such as child sex abuse.

The force needs to save money after the Government announced it would again be cutting the money it receives. Mr Cole said there would have to be 300 fewer police officers to make the books balance.

Some questions from the floor concerned the restructuring. High Sheriff of Rutland Miles Williamson-Noble asked Mr Cole how he could guarantee good response times to crimes in the east of the county, and whether a cross-border agreement with Stamford could be arranged.

Mr Cole admitted response times in the east of Rutland were among the worst in the force.

“We start from a place where we need to improve,” he said. “We do a lot of work across borders. We have a common radio system, and we will have ourselves, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire and Northamtonshire on the same intelligence system in the future.”

Oakham resident Malcolm Smith raised the issue of antisocial behaviour in the town centre, suggesting he lived in the “wrong postcode” for anything to be done about the problem.

“We don’t feel that we have been listened to, and nothing much has happened,” he said.

Mr Cole said there were on average two reports of antisocial behaviour per day in Rutland, but accepted that it presented a challenge. Extra patrols will be put on this weekend to fight the problem.

County council leader Roger Begy (Con), who chaired the meeting, echoed Mr Smith’s concerns and admitted CCTV in the town was not good enough. He said a new system had gone out to tender last week, adding: “We are looking at getting it up in the new year.”

And some people at the meeting questioned the Chief Constable about the rebuilding of Oakham police station. Although not part of the wider restructure, Mr Cole said the demolition of the old station and move to a smaller office and inquiry desk the county council offices was still designed to save money.