Last week, I presented my budget to the county’s Police and Crime Panel and I was pleased that this cross-party grouping of experienced councillors and independent members unanimously supported my proposals to strengthen the Constabulary.

I was able to report how we have funded plans to increase the size of the force by over 300 officers, Police Community Support Officers and police staff, the vast majority of which are already in place, with the balance recruited by the summer.  I am also planning on recruiting up to 200 more volunteer Special Constables and 100 Volunteer Police Community Support Officers.  In addition, we have over 60 people supporting victims of crime, and youth groups helping to divert youngsters from the possibility of becoming involved in crime.

This increase in deployable personnel is possible due to a combination of sources – extra grant funding from the Home Office, your hard earned council tax contributions and my team’s success in bidding for financial support from a wide range of Government outlets. Indeed, in securing over £3M from the Safer Streets initiative, we have outperformed most other forces around the country, acquiring money which has been used to tackle anti-social behaviour, male violence against women and girls, and residential burglaries in rural areas.

I continue to work closely with the Chief Constable to deliver a new operating model for the Constabulary, which should be in place by the summer.  It is based on an assessment of where crime and police demand are coming from within the county – something which has changed substantially over the last few years.  The force is working hard to improve its understanding and recording of all crime incidents, and has re-assessed its capacity to cope with 999 calls and prevent crimes at source.

Our force control room, for most the first point of contact with the police, is now performing at a higher level, having benefited from substantial investment in extra call handlers and new technology. In January, our average answer time for 999 calls was 9 seconds (the national target is 10 seconds), with 101 non-emergency calls being answered in 2 minutes 40 seconds (my target is 2 minutes) – our best figures in 2 years.  Still more to do, but we are starting to see significant improvements in effectiveness across the Constabulary, all tangible results of the extra investment from you, the tax payer.