Commissioner allays shake-up fears

Cleveland's police and crime commissioner Barry Coppinger pictured at Hartlepool Civic Centre.
Cleveland's police and crime commissioner Barry Coppinger pictured at Hartlepool Civic Centre.

A CRIME chief has pledged that policing levels in Hartlepool will not be affected as part of a force shake-up.

Cleveland’s Police and Crime Commissioner Barry Coppinger attended a meeting of Hartlepool Borough Council’s scrutiny co-ordinating committee and told councillors how he was committed to retaining services and neighbourhood policing teams throughout the town.

He reiterated that Hartlepool would not be merged with Stockton as part of the re-structure, and he said financial cuts had been made through a “managed reduction” of officers who have served 30 years, and from senior and middle-management positions.

Mr Coppinger said the force overhaul was due to economic circumstances and the fact that Cleveland “traditionally gets a raw deal in terms of funding” from the Government.

He told the meeting at the Civic Centre chambers in Victoria Road yesterday: “There are no plans to merge Hartlepool and Stockton. The chief constable is undertaking a review of the force re-structure and at the heart of it is the retention of Neighbourhood Policing teams across the Cleveland area and facilities that you have in Hartlepool in terms of police.

“From a Hartlepool resident’s point of view there should be no apparent difference in terms of service here from Cleveland Police.

“The re-structuring is obviously because of the economic circumstances we are in, but it’s about achieving savings in middle and senior management, not frontline services.

“No matter what the re-structure is, it won’t effect levels of police you currently enjoy in Hartlepool.

“There might be slight alterations in terms of deployment of officers, but there’s a commitment to retain neighbourhood policing teams in every ward, so that should remain.

“There’s a commitment to retain them in Hartlepool and in the other three districts.”

He added: “We have to look at the history of the way Cleveland has been treated. It’s an urban metropolitan area, but is treated as a shire county.

“Traditionally we’ve had a raw deal in terms of funding and we’ve never had the levels of funding we should have had. We could do so much more if we had more resources.

“However, in February 2013 we currently have record levels of crime reduction, high levels of public confidence, but with very limited resources.

“The restructuring changes are being driven for reasons of economy but it’s also about effectiveness and the proposals that the Chief Constable Jacqui Cheer has drawn up should not impact on front line policing in Hartlepool.”

Mr Coppinger , who has been to Hartlepool 12 times since he was elected in November last year, has also praised the work of a town group set up to support asylum seekers and refugees in Hartlepool.

The Asylum Seekers and Refugees Group group, which operates from St Joseph’s Church Hall, in Hutton Avenue, was set up about three years ago and currently supports around 38 families, mainly from Asian and African countries such as Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Malawi and Zimbabwe.

Mr Coppinger paid a visit to the organisation which holds drop-in sessions every Monday from 11.30am until 2pm in St Joseph’s Church Hall in Hutton Avenue.