Public money would be better spent on more staff than funding local enquiry offices that are seldom used, says Bedfordshire Police’s deputy chief constable.
The Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), Festus Akinbusoye had asked for an update on the future of enquiry offices during the Delivery and Beating Crime meeting last week (31 March).
The deputy chief constable (DCC), Trevor Rodenhurst, replied: “We’d love to have an enquiry office in lots and lots of places, it is a very traditional way of contacting the police service.
“But what we have to do every year is we review this, and we will review it this year as part of our priority-based budgeting.
“Priority-based budgeting is not about cutting costs, because we use it to determine areas where we need to provide investment to enhance service.
“With the enquiry offices we will look at a very close analysis of the demand,” he said.
“For example, one of the enquiry offices where we no longer provide the service, that decision was taken because we were getting between one and two people visiting that per day.
“Which is obviously not a good use of public money because that money could be funding another PCSO or a person in the control room,” he explained.
The DCC added that there are no plans to change the service at Luton Police Station and the Force’s HQ in Kempston.
“But it’s right that we review that, because the way the public seeks to access services has changed considerably over the last decade and continues to do so at pace,” the DCC said.
The PCC said: “As custodian of taxpayers money as much as I am drawn to wanting to have physical buildings in as many places as possible, I’ve got to say, ‘how do we justify [this]’?
“Because whether people go into it or not, you still have to pay the bills, you have to staff it, which comes at a cost and how do you justify having one or two people going into your building when it’s costing you about 100 grand a year, if not more.”
The DCC said the Force is looking at other methods to make it easy for the public to access its services while they are out.
“Obviously, it would be much better if someone can access police and services either electronically, or there’s a facility, or some sort of kiosk terminal that they can use at various locations,” he said.
Director of OPCC Operations, Wayne Humberstone, said: “We are now well underway with having a proof-of-concept.
“We’re now working with the Single Online Home project, which is the national project around progressing access to police systems remotely.
“It’s about giving people the choice whether on a mobile device, whether on a terminal or whether it’s on their laptop, so that actually we can then make progress in areas such as the control room as staff are actually able to answer telephone calls because we’re reducing that demand,” he said.
by John Guinn
Local Democracy Reporter