Cleveland Police Commissioner backs plans to axe force’s horse section

SUPPORTIVE: Police and Crime Commissioner Barry Coppinger
SUPPORTIVE: Police and Crime Commissioner Barry Coppinger

AN elected police chief has spoken out in support of plans to dispand a force’s mounted section.

Cleveland’s Police and Crime Commissioner Barry Coppinger says he backs Chief Constable Jacqui Cheer’s decision to cut the horse section.

He said the decision was made amid heavy cuts to the force’s budget which is £137m in 2013-14.

The force is aiming to save £26m, engaged in cutting around 300 police officers, reducing senior and middle management costs, and is looking to build a better headquarters that would be cheaper to run.

He said any decision to reverse the move would leave bosses having to find savings elsewhere.

Mr Coppinger said Mrs Cheer came to her view in a “considered and professional manner” as he would expect and she arrived at her conclusion reluctantly.

It comes as campaigners handed a 3,000-strong petition following a peaceful protest walk from Stewart Park, in Middlesbrough, to the force headquarters in Ladgate Lane.

Campaigners say as well as the 3,000 signatures that have already been handed over, there was also online support from 4,900 other people.

The mounted section was axed by police in a bid to save cash - an annual saving of £88,000.

The section consists of five horses, two members of police staff, one sergeant and six police constables based at Ormesby Hall, in Middlesbrough, and costs £521,000 per year to maintain.

Bosses say that if officers on horses are needed to police an event in Cleveland, which Mr Coppinger said is a rare occurrence, then resources could be brought in from another force.

He said people have told him sponsorship has also been raised as a possible way to maintain the section.

He said he met with campaigners and agreed that if sponsors come forward and are willing to make a three-year commitment in excess of £500,000, then he will have meaningful discussions.

But this cannot delay the process and the deadline for is the Police and Crime Panel Meeting on July 18.

Mr Coppinger said: “It is clear from this exercise that emotions have run high – this is an issue dear to the heart of many local people. I am able to assure people locally that there are no concerns that have not been very carefully considered in arriving at the decision that Cleveland does not need a mounted section.

“What is certain is that further drastic measures will need to be taken, in order to balance the declining budget position of Cleveland Police.

“I will ensure every decision is taken in as considered and professional a way as this one.

“Most of all, I will ensure that the decisions taken are in the best interests of the safety of some 600,000 people across the 82 wards in the Cleveland area. I will be presenting a report on this process to the next meeting of the Police and Crime Panel on July 18.”