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Wiltshire Police Federation

More armed police but fewer 999 call handlers if precept approved

21 January 2019

Swindon Advertiser

MORE armed police and fewer call handlers could be on the cards if plans to increase the police share of the council tax are approved.

The Police and Crime Commissioner for Wiltshire Police revealed he would create 41 new police officer roles if people paid an extra £24 a year towards the forces’ bill.

Of the new roles, 15 would be firearms officers, nine would be traffic officers, and another 15 would be community officers.

Three of these community police would be co-ordinators that would help make patrol areas smaller.

On average, armed officers respond to 1.7 call outs per week in Wiltshire.

A further 24 positions would also be created to replace the tri force scheme between Gloucester and Somerset and Avon after it disbands in April.

Mark Andrews, chairman of Wiltshire branch of the Police Federation, said: “It is essential we increase the precept to help offer this community the service it needs and deserves.

“We started with 1,200 police officers 12 years ago and we are resting at 935 now. If the precept is increased, I would welcome any increase to police numbers, but we would still have 250 fewer officers than we once had.

“So, we do appreciate these efforts but we don’t think they’re going anywhere near far enough.

“Due to the high demand on Wiltshire Police, this suggested officer increase would only lead to one extra officer per area, which is just a small drop in the ocean.

“We understand the authority has had to save money, but saving money has put officers in danger.

“It means they can’t do their job properly and can’t serve the area as well as they’d like to, they’re struggling.”

The extra cash would be added to the precept paid through council tax and see an average Band D household pay £206.27 a year.

Although the precept rise could create £6.253m and bring annual funding for policing up to £118.287m the force said £1m of cuts would still need to be made.

Among the cuts proposed are three jobs from the communications team, which would lead to fewer people being available to answer emergency 999 calls.

The PCC said that a £250k loan for the communications team had led to improved performance, but that loan now had to be paid back.