Axe falls on town police

The thin blue line
The thin blue line

HARTLEPOOL is set lose three of its top police positions during a force restructure that aims to help save £26m.

Cleveland Police are axing 324 officer positions as chiefs restructure how the force operates despite years of crime reductions.

It will see a reorganisation of leadership that will axe two superintendent or chief superintendent posts while chief inspectors will be cut from 20 to 17 and inspectors will fall to 75 from 86.

Overall, the number of police officer posts is planned to fall from 1,724 in April 2010 to 1,400 in March 2014.

Four new teams are set to be created to cover all policing from neighbourhoods to organised crime, with chief inspectors and superintendents mainly working across the Cleveland area rather than in specific towns as they do now.

The only chief inspector post to remain in Hartlepool will be for neighbourhoods.

Temporary Chief Inspector Jacqui Cheer, of Cleveland Police, said the changes are necessary as the force has to make £26m in real-term cuts by the 2014-15 financial year following the Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review in April 2010.

Steve Matthews, the chairman of the Cleveland Police Federation – which represents officers – has hit out at the Government for forcing the axing of posts, saying that the number of officers will be at “breaking point”.

He said: “The public of Hartlepool won’t see a major difference initially, but you worry that losing such positions locally will mean they won’t have someone to relate to.

“Unfortunately it is a sign of the times and I do not envy those making the decisions in the force, but I do blame the politicians.

“It is one thing after another for police officers at the moment. I know everyone will work hard to make these changes work, but the number of officers will be at breaking point.

“It feels like an onslaught against the service”.

Mrs Cheer said she hoped the changes will carry on crime reductions that has seen crime fall to its lowest ever levels in Hartlepool.

She said: “I believe people in Hartlepool will see very little change, there will be no change to the response they get when they phone us or the response to problems.

“If they do notice a change, they should let us know. Plans this big need to be reviewed and this is not set in stone.

“The Police and Crime Commissioner will be keeping a close eye on this also.”

Police and Crime Commissioner Barry Coppinger, who is in charge of the force’s budget said his focus remains on neighbourhood policing.

He said: “Everyone is well aware that the force faces substantial cuts to funding and police numbers and so changes have to be made. However, I have made it clear that, despite these pressures, neighbourhood policing must remain the priority and no local community should lose its neighbourhood team.

“This restructure will ensure that remains the case. It also establishes a chief superintendent post dedicated to neighbourhood policing.

“I note the assurance from Mrs Cheer that the public will not see any reduction to the service delivered.

“Mrs Cheer is to be congratulated on devising a plan that achieves this under very challenging circumstances. I can assure local communities that I will hold the Temporary Chief Constable to account on this pledge.”