Suffolk officer numbers face axe

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SUFFOLK Police Authority will meet tomorrow to discuss budget savings which could see the number of officers on the county’s streets reduced.

In a joint report from Chief Constable Simon Ash and Police Authority treasurer Chris Bland, members will be told how the financial challenge facing the force has become greater over the last few months.

They will also hear that despite cutting £4.7million from its budget last year, the constabulary must save £16million over the next four years.

Options at the authority’s disposal involve freezing council tax at 2011/12 levels and accepting a one-off government grant of £1.25million for one year, or turning down the grant and increasing the policing element of council tax by 3.75 per cent to generate £1.55million.

Option two would allow the force to keep officer numbers above 1,200 – a figure Mr Ash says would concern him if the county fell below – but option one would see officers drop below this amount.

Police authority chairman Joanna Spicer said the budget was particularly difficult this year, with significant pressures coming to bear on all sides.

“We recognise that these are difficult times for everyone and want to do everything we can to keep costs down for council tax payers across the county,” she said.

“However, our role as an authority is to secure an efficient and effective policing service for Suffolk, which already has one of the lowest cost forces in the country.

“It is clear that our decisions over the next few weeks will have major implications for policing both today and in the years ahead.”

Members will make a final decision on the budget at a meeting on February 20.

WARNING: Simon Ash does not want to see major cuts to police numbers.