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Police chiefs address fears over money-saving changes to Ealing Force
POLITICIANS and the public aired their fears about money-saving changes planned for the borough's force at a meeting hosted by police chiefs this week.
Deputy mayor for policing Stephen Greenhalgh, Met Police assistant commissioner Simon Byrne and borough commander Andy Rowell addressed people's concern's at Ealing Town Hall.
The changes will see Greenford Police Station closed down and Ealing station's front counter moved with its hours likely to be cut.
The current Safer Neighbourhood Teams model of at least one sergeant, two PCs and three PCSOs per ward will be dropped. Instead there will be just one dedicated PC and PCSO per ward with support drawn from a pool of neighbourhood officers.
The number of senior officers from sergeant upwards will be cut with the saving used to recruit more PCs. A publicly accountable inspector will be responsible for groups of wards.
Mr Greenhalgh said the aim was to prioritise bobbies over buildings with officer numbers rising to 727 by 2015, an increase of 63 since 2011. Safer Neighbourhood Teams officers will more than double rising by 93 to 161.
Mr Byrne admitted this will be at the expense of some specialist detective squads but said they will do a better job boosting Safer Neighbourhood Teams which will be at the 'heart of policing' in the borough.
Critics questioned the wisdom of leaving the north of the borough without a station and Ealing Broadway, with its busy nightlife, without a 24 hour front counter service.
Ealing Common councillor Jon Ball and council leader Julian Bell both said Perceval House, the proposed new home for Ealing's front counter could and should accommodate a 24 hour service.
And Ealing Fields residents' Association member James Guest suggested the British Transport Police base in Ealing Broadway Station may be a better alternative, an idea met with enthusiasm by the top officers who promised they would look into it.
Mr Rowell added: "I want as many contact points for the public as possible."
These include opening up Safer Neighbourhood bases, such as the one in Northolt Leisure Centre which has a front counter which has never been used.
Mr Guest summed up many people's worries about the Safer Neighbourhoods shake-up, saying: "At the moment you see five to six officers walking around interacting with the public. With just one dedicated PC and PCSO per ward that means there will be some loss of local knowledge over time."
Val Clover, chairwoman of Southside Neighbourhood watch in Ealing Broadway, said she was worried organisations like hers will suffer without their dedicated PCSOs.
Mr Rowell said the reorganisation would be a good thing as there will be more Safer Neighbourhood Officers and greater flexibility to tackle crime. He said: "I see it as far more people building local knowledge."
The changes are to be brought in April. With such a short deadline people questioned how the changes can not already be a done deal but Mr Byrne insisted nothing has been finalised.
The public have until March 6 to give their views on the plans drawn up to save £500 million across the Met by 2015 in response to budget cuts.
Visit www.london.gov.uk/priorities/policing-and-crime/community-engagement or email email@example.com to find out more.
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