Changes to local neighbourhood policing across Sussex were called into question at the latest Sussex Police and Crime Panel meeting.
Sussex Police began its transformation of local policing this summer with a reduction to the number of PCSOs and changes to their role. The new model is designed to keep pace with a change in the types of crime being committed in Sussex.
But members of the Panel questioned Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne about the effectiveness of the changes and how they fit in with her own priority to strengthen local policing.
“Many members spoke of concerns within their communities that the new model of policing would result in an increase in antisocial behaviour and break the link between residents and the police force,” Chairman Cllr Brad Watson said after Friday’s meeting (September 23).
“With strengthening local policing a priority for Mrs Bourne, members were concerned that this new model would not help her achieve this. The role of enhanced mobile technology in strengthening local policing needs to be more fully demonstrated to residents.”
Members asked for assurances that the changes would not have a negative impact on their communities, that the public could continue to have confidence in the police and that the effectiveness of new model is properly and regularly assessed.
“I am aware of concerns and will continue to scrutinise, but the new model has only just started to be rolled out, it has been operational barely two months and we need to give it time to bed in,” the Commissioner told the Panel.
“I am confident the new policing model is where it should be right now I and I will continue to scrutinise it and continue to challenge the chief constable around this.”
Concerns were also raised about the performance of Sussex Police when dealing with non-emergency calls to 101. Panel members were told that 43 per cent of calls to 101 were answered within the force’s self-imposed 60 seconds target.
But, the Commissioner said, the average wait for calls to 101 to be answered was three minutes and 37 seconds.
“I have told the chief constable that if the target is not working he needs to look at what it is that you are expecting of your staff in call handling,” said Mrs Bourne. “People calling 101 want to know that their call will be handled and dealt with. For me it is about the public being happy with the service they receive.”
She said there were a number of measures being put in place to try to improve the waiting time for those calling 101 and that performance is being kept under constant review by the force.
The Panel received a budget update in which they were told savings for Sussex Police in the period until 2021 remained at £48.2million. They were told that progress was being made but that the situation was being constantly reviewed.
Concluding the meeting, Cllr Watson asked the Commissioner to assess the information and data she provided on her website in respect of significant decisions she had made, this being less comprehensive than that provided by other Commissioners.
Speaking after the meeting the chairman said, “The Panel exists to support the work of the Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner and to hold her to account. It was clear from the meeting that members felt they needed more information and clearer data from the Commissioner in order to effectively challenge the decisions that are being made.
“I’m sure the Commissioner will consider the comments made and continue to provide as much relevant data to the Panel as possible.”