Top policeman is ‘confident’ he can protect front line

Chief constable Alex Marshall
Chief constable Alex Marshall

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HAMPSHIRE’S chief constable is confident he can protect front-line policing – despite about 1,000 posts being axed to save cash.

Alex Marshall said up to 300 police officers and 700 staff jobs could be cut as the force tries to save up to £50m by 2015.

So far 82 vacant police officer posts have not been filled and 79 supervisory roles, including superintendents and chief superintendents, will be axed.

But eight extra front-line officers have been recruited and the force plans to take on up to 150 more front-line officers in the next three years.

Mr Marshall said: ‘Even though we have reduced by 161 officers, local visible policing has been maintained and, by a small amount, has gone up.

‘My intention is that we recruit about 40 to 50 police officers in the next year, the same the following year, and the same the following year.’

Mr Marshall spoke as Hampshire Police Authority members yesterday agreed a £314m budget for next year.

The move means the force must save £20.2m by April 2012 as it tackles a 5.14 per cent budget cut.

The black hole will be plugged by savings including cutting the 161 police officer posts, not filling vacant police staff jobs, reducing overtime and a £4m underspend from last year.

Members also agreed a council tax freeze that means the average Band D property resident will still pay £146.25 a year towards policing.

Mr Marshall added: ‘We have got fewer police officers in total, but more police officers on the front line.

‘I am increasingly confident that we can find the savings over four years and protect the number of people on local front-line duties.

‘It’s looking good for the public, it’s looking tough for my staff but we can get through this.’

John Apter, chairman of the Hampshire Police Federation, which represents rank and file officers, said he was ‘reassured’ the force was ‘still one of a tiny amount of forces still recruiting’.

‘But we are nonetheless over the next four years going to reduce police officer numbers significantly,’ he said.

‘Whilst I support the chief constable in his desire to protect the front line we can’t ignore the critical work that goes on behind the scenes.

‘This is the start of deep and damaging cuts.’

Jacqui Rayment, police authority chairwoman, said: ‘This is really only the first phase of a long road but one I am sure, when we get to the end of the change programme, will be right for Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.’