Anger over cost of police website
Shaun LowthorpePolice chiefs in Norfolk have come under fire for splashing out nearly �255,000 upgrading a website.Shaun Lowthorpe
Police chiefs in Norfolk have come under fire for splashing out nearly �255,000 upgrading a website.
Bosses at Norfolk Constabulary are keen to get more of us going online to access police services.
But questions have been raised about the price tag after it emerged that the cost to the taxpayer for the new system was �254,662.08 - though this includes a content management system, temporary staff costs, and consultancy fees.
While not a replacement for the usual 999 emergency service, force chiefs believe the site is needed to keep in touch with the public by allowing people to contact local safer neighbourhood teams, look at local crime maps, and get safety advice.
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Video postings on Youtube, blogs, and access to social networking sites such as Facebook are also planned. A dedicated 'microsite' for youngsters and each of the county's 52 safer neighbourhood teams will also be available.
Details emerged following a freedom of information request from a member of the public.
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By contrast, figures show that Northamptonshire and Essex paid �65,000 and �75,000 for their new sites.
But the constabulary, which hired London-based firm The Reading Room to design and build the system, said the Norfolk site was a complete revamp and could not be directly compared with the other forces' sites, which did not need new content management systems. It is also similar to costs paid by other public bodies such as Norfolk County Council, when it installed a new content management system.
Susie Squire, from the Taxpayers' Alliance, said most people would prefer to see the cash spent on more bobbies on the beat instead of a virtual service.
'The bottom line is that this is a huge amount of money which could have gone on improving frontline policing,' she said. 'You can still have an effective website upgrade, but done in a much more cost- effective way so that the money saved could go on improving frontline policing, which is what most people want.'
Anne Campbell, Norfolk Police's director of communications, said the system was more than just a website and also reflected a government drive to find new ways of delivering public services.
She also insisted it would help frontline officers by giving the public more direct access.
'We are increasing our visibility and accountability of our officers,' said Mrs Campbell. 'We think there will be more people wishing to engage with us via the website in the same way that people do now with online banking and shopping. Many local authorities also allow you to pay your council tax online.'
Previously the force's eight-year-old website had on average 3,000 visitors a month. But since the new website launched, there had been more than 62,000 visitors including 145 acknowledgements of online crimes, said Mrs Campbell.
'We are not trying to reduce our service; what we are actually trying to do is offer an extra service,' she added. 'I think people should be proud of what we are doing because we are leading the pack.'
t Norfolk Constabulary's website is at www.norfolk.police.uk
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