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Chief: Collaboration ‘Can Meet Cuts Challenge’

Consolidation of business support functions has helped mitigate budget pressures across two forces, says chief constable

Extensive collaboration of business support functions across two forces in the east of England has helped meet the stark challenge of austerity cuts, it has been claimed.

Since his force embarked on the complex process of consolidating business support functions, including HR and ICT, with neighbouring Suffolk more than two years ago, Norfolk’s Chief Constable Phil Gormley (pictured) said his force had reaped the dual benefits of a sharper focus on policing and delivering savings.

He added that the merger of protective services, which includes major crime investigation, roads policing, firearms and forensics, to achieve £3.8 million in savings has also boosted the operational capacity of both forces with increased investigative resources.

In addition, he asserted that the collaboration had prompted other joint forms of working, with the implementation of six Police Investigation Centres to replace both forces’ decommissioned custody suites. This had minimised officers’ time away from frontline duties.

The facilities across both force areas have 146 cells and host forensic and photographic facilities plus interview rooms with modern recording equipment.

They provide cost-effective facilities for detainee handling and investigations, allowing officers to question suspects and hold them under one roof.

As of last month, some 53,000 detainees had been processed through the centres, the last of which was opened in Great Yarmouth in late 2011. The initiative was praised in an HMIC report as setting “a benchmark for the quality both of custody provision and of thoroughly planned and executed joint working”.

In an interview with PoliceOracle.com CC Gormley said consolidating general business support functions typical of any force allowed the focus to remain firmly on retaining local, frontline policing.

He pointed out: “Collaboration has allowed us to understand how to make savings and share costs – it is helping to meet the challenge of the cuts.

“It has been a complex and complicated process, which has been frustrating at times, but I believe our collaborated business support is like no other in the country because there are few, if any, forces that have it.

“This is about working out what is important to keep local to ensure we deliver our services to the community and what we can collaborate on to improve the service further.”

Possibilities for further collaboration still exist – including the rationalisation of command teams. But CC Gormley stressed there were no immediate plans in place and any future initiatives would need to be considered by Norfolk Police and Crime Commissioner Stephen Bett and his Suffolk counterpart Tim Passmore.

A new approach to delivering frontline policing has also been introduced since CC Gormley took the helm in January 2010. Response and safer neighbourhood teams have been re-focused to place officers more locally within their communities.

Explaining how he thinks officers and staff feel about the level of collaboration within the force, CC Gormley added: “I think everybody understands there is a problem and we need to find £25 million of savings.

“It is important that we tell people what we know and we engage with them to solve problems together.”

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