Ottery’s sergeant urges people to speak out as cuts threaten face of neighbourhood policing

Sergeant Chris Leisk of Ottery's neighbourhood team. Picture by Alex Wlaton. Ref sho 1195-33-14AW

Sergeant Chris Leisk of Ottery's neighbourhood team. Picture by Alex Wlaton. Ref sho 1195-33-14AW - Credit: Archant

Ottery’s police sergeant says now is the time for people to speak out against budget cuts that would ‘drastically change’ the neighbourhood service.

A government funding review that would have hit Devon and Cornwall’s police force by £54million-a-year has been suspended after the region’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) discovered mistakes in Home Office data.

As a result of this, the expected budget cuts have been reduced to £39million, but Sergeant Chris Leisk this week painted a stark picture of how even this amount will impact policing in Ottery.

He has spoken out in the hope that informing people of the effect cuts would have on their community will encourage those who are concerned to lobby elected representatives before ‘it is too late’.

Sgt Leisk told the Herald: “The Government has always said the police force can make financial savings without affecting the front line.

“Here in Ottery, the way I see it, it can only affect staffing. Eighty per cent of costs go on staff.

“The PCC is preparing for £39million cuts, which is still in itself massive.

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“The reality is, I have got three PCSOs here in Ottery and they will probably all go - the focus of policing will drastically change.

“Especially here in the town, everybody knows the PCSOs and the question is, do people really understand that if the cuts come in, it is likely that they will not be seeing them on a daily basis?

“Even if they do not lose their job, they would be deployed elsewhere.

“It’s not just the PCSOs. In the latest round of cuts we lost 500 police officers. If the cuts are of the severity that we are planning for, numbers will drop down to 2,500 [police officers left across Devon and Cornwall] over the next few years.

“That brings into question things like neighbourhood policing. We are duty-bound to respond to 999 calls and we will always provide that service. We always need to provide an efficient response to investigating serious crime.

“Neighbourhood policing is the area that is the one that can be withdrawn. I’m under no illusion that in six to 18 months, my role here will not exist and I will be deployed elsewhere.

“The message is that people need to make informed decisions, especially as we now have a bit of time after the Government’s decision to review the funding formula.

“If people are concerned about losing their police, I would urge them to speak to their MP and Police and Crime Commissioner and make their voices heard. Now is the time to be having these conversations.

“There is no doubt that we are going to receive more cuts, but people’s voices might change how much is cut.

“Over the last few years, we have managed to achieve those cuts and still maintain a similar level of service – in five years’ time, when the cuts are being realised on a year-by-year basis, the service we provide will look drastically different.

“Community issues are all dealt with by our PCSOs. The police officers we have will be deployed into serious and major crime, responding to 999 calls and protecting vulnerable people.

“They will not have the time to pick up the work the PCSOs do.

“You are only likely to see a police officer when you pick up the phone and dial 999.”

Sgt Leisk admitted the uncertainty does impact on the moral of staff, but said he has a fantastic team who support each other.

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