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Norfolk and Suffolk police chiefs clash over control centre merger proposals

06:30 21 March 2014

Independent Police and Crime Commissioner for Norfolk Constabulary Stephen Bett . Photo: Steve Adams

Independent Police and Crime Commissioner for Norfolk Constabulary Stephen Bett . Photo: Steve Adams

Norfolk and Suffolk’s police chiefs are at loggerheads over controversial plans to merge police control centres.

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The idea to create a single control room at Wymondham is expected to save £1.8m a year, but has sparked criticism from staff at risk and fears over public safety.

Norfolk’s police and crime commissioner, Stephen Bett, is behind the plan and last week warned his Suffolk counterpart, Tim Passmore, there would be “dire consequences” for both forces if it failed.

But Mr Passmore hit back at the comments and said: “My view is we will sort ourselves in Suffolk. We don’t need any advice as to how we will deal with this.”

And today, with the business case to be presented to both crime commissioners at a meeting in Norfolk at the end of April, the battle stepped up a gear.

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Mr Bett said he and Mr Passmore had known about the plan since April last year, when they both received proposals for future collaboration opportunities and agreed guiding principles.

Mr Bett said: “We spent about £354,000 doing this, getting the business cases, and up until that meeting in Suffolk [last month] as far as I knew from what he had said to police officers doing the business case with Capita he had seen all the business cases and was happy with
the control room business case.

“So when it came down to that meeting I was very surprised when he came out against it because he knew that Suffolk would save £2m and we would save £2.2m.

“I’m genuinely amazed by what’s gone on and what he’s said on radio and TV and
at that meeting – I was completely bowled over by it.”

Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore is pictured outside a Police Investigation Centre. Picture: SUPPLIED.Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore is pictured outside a Police Investigation Centre. Picture: SUPPLIED.

While Mr Passmore admitted he agreed a business case should be looked at, he said “at no stage did I agree that was the way we were going” and believed it to be a “slight misunderstanding”.

He insisted he has said repeatedly that “we should look at other options as well” ,including other forms of collaboration.

Mr Bett said: “It’s not a Norfolk/Suffolk thing, it’s a countrywide thing – all police forces are having to save a shed-load of money and going parochial will not save this money.”

But Mr Passmore said he was not being parochial, explaining that Suffolk already collaborated significantly with Norfolk in a number of areas and would look to continue.

The control room proposals – which could see the loss of about 70 jobs – are part of cost-cutting measures aimed at bridging a combined funding gap for the two forces of £36.7m by March 2018.

Do you have a crime story? Email peter.walsh@archant.co.uk

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