Sidmouth councillors saddened by police cuts

Police face forced retirement after 30 years’ service after �50 million cuts to budget

POLICE in Sidmouth and East Devon will have to concentrate on crime detection and “keeping the Queen’s peace” as swingeing budget cuts are implemented.

With some �50 million in cuts to be found over the next four years, by Devon and Cornwall Police Constabulary, Inspector Tony Comerford told Sidmouth Town Council on Monday: “We have a fantastic staff, who are dedicated, but they will have to stop doing some things.”

Councillors were saddened to hear that experienced, trained police officers with 30 years service were having to retire as the force found ways to deal with the Government’s challenge to implement a 20 per cent cut in funding by 2014/15, he said.

Central funding will fall to �9.3 billion in 2011/12 then to �8.8 billion the next year. Rob Garnham, chairman of the Association of Police Authorities, has described the cuts as “daunting” while Inspector Comerford says they are “unprecedented”.

He said locally, 700 police officers would go between now and April 2015, either through natural waste, retirement, compulsory retirement and a freeze on recruitment, making a reduction from 3,500 to 2,800 posts: “the same level as when I joined in 1982.”

A reduction of 385 posts this financial year would be made “despite consideration of options and non-budget savings.”

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He said 82 per cent of the local force budget went on wages, adding: “It is a huge force – 172 square kilometres - bigger than Cleveland, Manchester, Merseyside and the Met.”

Under the title Blueprint, the force is considering different ways of working to save money, stopping duplication of management functions and ensuring crime victims speak to the right person.

“We have taken as many links out of the chain as we can,” said the inspector.

Main response hubs will be at Exmouth, Honiton, Exeter and Cullompton and maximum response times should be 20 minutes.

There will be five local police support teams - at Sidmouth, Ottery St Mary, Axminster, Tiverton and Crediton.

“They are there to provide additional support and cover night-time issues,” said Inspector Comerford.

PCs James Tyrrell and Dave Wallace will be at Sidmouth station, along with Sergeant Andy Turner.

“We all understand cuts have to be made across the board in public life,” said Councillor Ann Liverton. “What struck me most was the sad loss of experience and training, with officers being forced to retire at a time when they have lots more to offer.”

Councillors praised officers for their “excellent” dedication to their work, while facing such difficult times.