Wiltshire's Police and Crime Commissioner warns of serious challenges ahead
Angus Macpherson, who stood again in May as the Conservative Party candidate to be Police and Crime Commissioner for Wiltshire and Swindon and was re-elected, says he remains positive about policing on his patch, but warns of 'serious challenges ahead.'
In his annual report, Mr Macpherson writes: “The changing and increasingly complex demand on services, the need for better care of vulnerable victims and continued financial restrictions present a real challenge to how services are resourced, structured and delivered”.
“Overall I believe we are making good progress in delivering my Police and Crime Plan, delivering an effective and efficient police service and beginning to make improvements to the criminal justice system in Wiltshire and Swindon.”
The full report is packed with information and figures - but there is no indication whatsoever about the numbers of police Wiltshire and Swindon now have. So we do not learn whether those 'financial restrictions' have meant a reduction in police numbers.
However, there may be a sign that there has been some reduction: "I have made a £1m investment to recruit hundreds of special constables over the next two years and wish to increase the scope and number of police volunteers in general."
He says that response times are being maintained: "88 per cent of the time Wiltshire police attend within the immediate response agreed time of 15 minutes in urban and 20 minutes in rural areas."
However, the report continues: "The majority of priority responses to non life-threatening incidents are managed within 60 minutes, with an average response time of 45 minutes. Whilst I am reassured that 95 per cent of priority responses are within 100 minutes this is more than the 60 minute expectation." And he has asked the Chief Constable why this is.
Mr Macpherson marks changes being made to policing in the area: "During the last year we have successfully begun a community policing team (CPT) pilot to trial a more decentralised and collaborative policing model."
And there is a coded warning about the number of police stations: "There is a need to remodel and rationalise the police estate. My significant investment in technology means officers increasingly work in community spaces and in shared facilities with local authorities."
"My estate is in need of modernisation and is under used. In 2016-17 I anticipate a new estates strategy and masterplan to continue to rationalise the estate and make the retained estate fit for policing in the 21st Century." Note that phrase 'the retained estate'.
The report also outlines the positive work done for victim and witness care - like the Horizon scheme - and for working appropriately in cases involving those in 'mental health crisis'. Some of the report is tough reading: "Wiltshire is a significant outlier in its dwelling burglary outcome rate."
Mr Macpherson is pleased that the force has the lowest council tax precept in the south-west. But he is none to pleased with the funding from central government: “Wiltshire receives the second lowest share of Home Office funding for police per head of population."
"This is unfair and is reinforced by a police funding formula that does not recognise that areas with low crime still require adequate resource to police."
“The formula is due to be reviewed in 2016-17. I will be lobbying MPs and ministers to address this unfairness and for a more reliable funding that takes the needs of Wiltshire and Swindon into account.”
The full report can be read here.