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Police say they're doing well despite £40million budget cuts
4:10pm Thursday 12th December 2013 in News
MORE than £40million of cuts to Essex Police’s budget have been good for the force, according to Southend’s district commander.
Temporary Chief Insp Matt Bennett said the £44million cut in Government funding over the last four years had hit an already lean force hard – cutting almost 400 officers, 500 support staff and 100 PCSOs – and that a further £18million from April to March 2016 would also be challenging.
However, he said on the whole the experience had been a positive one.
Mr Bennett said: “Essex Police have one of the lowest council tax precepts in the country so we’ve always been good value for money for the Essex taxpayer.
“But that meant we were hit hard by the cut in government funding.
“It’s amazing what you can find and save on when you have to though. Many of the subsequent efficiencies have been through investing in technology that just wasn’t available in the past.
“It’s forced us to do better with less and it’s demonstrated to us we can do that little bit more. It doesn’t take a lot but, collectively, when every officer is increasing their presence in the community by as little as 15 minutes, it yields results.”
However, he said there were inevitable casualties of the funding cut and asked for the public’s support.
He added: “The downside is some things will have to give.
What we ask is that the public support what we are doing and try to understand these are difficult times, but we are doing our best to be visible with fewer people.”
Mr Bennett’s comments come as the force announced this week it is centralising its dog units and disbanding the Burnham-based marine unit.
The proposals are expected to save about £750,000 a year.
Essex Police and Crime Commissioner Nick Alston says an initial analysis of the next round of cuts would lead to efficiency savings of about £8million in 2014/15 and a further £10million in 2015/16.
However, Mr Bennett said he was confident the force would find a way to maintain its standards with less cash.
He said: “I’m concerned, but I was concerned about the first spending review and we’ve come through it really well. We’re can-do people who are at our best when we’re faced with problems, because we’re problem-solvers by nature – history has shown that.”
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