Norfolk police commissioner urges public sector bodies to work more closely together to beat funding crisis

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Other public bodies will have to do more if front-line police numbers are cut during the coming years, Norfolk’s police and crime commissioner (PCC) has warned.

Stephen Bett delivered the stark message during a visit to the police investigation centre at Saddlebow on Friday, where he claimed that public sector bodies could, and should, be working much more closely together in order to save money.

The warning followed media reports that as many as 150 police and community support officers could be lost across the county over the next four years in order to cut costs.

While the potential impact of cuts on West Norfolk is not known, it is already known that the Norfolk force as a whole needs to save £20 million by the end of the 2017-18 financial year.

And front-line recruitment has now moved into the potential firing line after the original plan to merge the Norfolk and Suffolk police control rooms was rejected by Suffolk PCC Tim Passmore earlier this year.

Mr Bett said that, while the recruitment of PCSOs has already been frozen in Norfolk, no figures of how many posts would have to go will be released until next month.

And he insisted that it was his job to make sure police officers spent more of their time fighting crime, regardless of whether cuts have to be imposed or not.

He said: “I can cut across every public body and make sure they are doing what they should be doing.”

While he said he accepted the idea that the police were a “back stop” for other public bodies, he claimed that as many as 60 per cent of calls made to police were not police matters at all, with around a quarter being mental health cases alone.

And he believes that concerns about possible breaches of data protection legislation are stopping organisations from working more closely together.

He cited the example of military police refusing to confirm to officers if a suspect had previously served in the armed forces.

He said: “That is what I’m dealing with. It is stopping the public services from helping each other to help people.

“If we share information, we would deal with them much more effectively and save a large amount of resource.”

Meanwhile, Mr Bett has also criticised the makers of a television documentary, which he claimed did not represent the full extent of his role.

The hour-long programme, Meet The Police Commissioner, which was broadcast on Channel Four on Thursday night, looked at the role by focusing on the Kent PCC, Ann Barnes.

But Mr Bett, who also confirmed he had not been asked to take part in it, described the programme as “cringeworthy” and said it did not cover much of the work done to cover the crime aspect of the commissioner’s role.

He said: “That wasn’t shown and that was a tragedy.

“The job is probably the biggest change in domestic politics and, if used correctly, we can make things much more effective for the public.”