The Scrutiny Support Officer presented a report to provide the Panel with an outline purpose of the meeting. The Panels proposed Work Programme for 2012-2013 had been agreed by the Overview and Scrutiny Board at a meeting on 3 July 2012. The first subject for the Panel to address was the reduction in Police resources and the effect on policing in Middlesbrough.
Superintendent Karen Ravenscroft, District Commander for Middlesbrough Police, was present at the meeting to provide an overview of the current policing provision in Middlesbrough. The District Commander explained that the budget for which she had responsibility was for non pay which covered such costs as overtime, bank holidays, equipment and fuel. Salaries for staff were managed centrally.
The District Commander had been in post for almost three years and in terms of the allocated non pay budget, there had been a reduction of approximately 50%. Funding was allocated from the Police Authority and Government Office North East. However, over the last three years there had been the biggest reduction in terms of crime reduction and anti-social behaviour (ASB) that the district had ever seen.
In terms of overall budget from the Cleveland Police Force point of view, the Policing Minister had recently agreed to cover the costs of Operation Sacristy. This meant that Cleveland Police did not need to make further savings in addition to those already made, in order to meet the costs of that investigation.
In 2009 the staff establishment for Middlesbrough was 323 and the current establishment was 309. However, the gap of 14 staff was made up of people who carried out police functions but were not operational Police Officers. For example, the Crime Management Unit was originally staffed by Police Officers to check crimes recorded on a daily basis. This work was now carried out by civilian staff. There had been no reduction in Officers in the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), neighbourhood policing or on the response teams.
In terms of overall neighbourhood policing across Middlesbrough, the numbers were the same. However, there had been some changes across the ward areas. Although there were the same number of Officers, the number of hours of policing had been reduced. In order to continue to improve performance particularly around crime and ASB, demand in certain areas had been examined to see whether the warranted powers of a Police Officer were required or whether the work could be done by a PCSO.
Resources had been re-distributed according to demand and Community Councils had been consulted regarding the changes. The Police had worked closely with the Safer Middlesbrough Partnership to focus on where the biggest impact could be made. Delivery plans were focussed around victims, locations and offenders rather than crime type. There were three neighbourhood areas which were Berwick Hills, Middlehaven and Coulby Newham. Gresham was currently the main focus and the more effectively the high level of demand was tackled, the better other areas could be serviced. Additional support could be provided by the dog and mounted sections as required.
A Tasking Co-ordination Meeting was held fortnightly to look at the data in terms of ASB and crime. A daily monitoring process was also in place. If an emerging problem was identified then additional resources would be allocated to deal with the issue.
There had also been a focus on managing the job queue of all the calls the Police received regarding incidents. If the job queue was not managed effectively, it could tie up responses to emergency 999 calls or calls that required a response within an hour.
Graphs showing trends in ASB and crime in Middlesbrough over the past three years were tabled for Members information. The figures were down by 11% from the previous year and as low as they had been since 1981. The current months figure for house burglaries across Middlesbrough was only 56.
Cleveland Police were current developing the Orbis Programme to look at how to continue delivering policing across the Force area with less Police Officers. The Chief Constable had emphasised that neighbourhood policing and standards around emergency response were the two key areas that had to continue to be delivered. The Chief Constable had also issued a directive that any vacancies in neighbourhood policing teams would be recruited to.
With regard to training, the vast majority of it was undertaken in-house, although there was also specialist training which could only be accessed outside the Force. All training was authorised through a central group chaired by an Assistant Chief Constable to ensure that enough people were skilled across the Force.
1. the Panel were satisfied with the evidence provided regarding the reduction in Police resources and the effect on policing in Middlesbrough.
2. no further evidence was required in respect of this scrutiny topic.
3. the Panel would receive a further update from the Police in early 2013.