Fringe Box



PCC Pledges Local Policing to Stay Despite Closures in Move to New HQ

Published on: 17 Sep, 2020
Updated on: 18 Sep, 2020

By Julie Armstrong

local democracy reporter

Police numbers in Surrey will increase and local presence will remain after a new HQ is built in Leatherhead, David Munro, the Police and Crime Commissioner, has guaranteed, although facing a £5m budget deficit this year. See: Covid-Caused Council Tax Shortages Leave Surrey Police Facing £5m ‘Black Hole’.

The force needs 500 more staff members and officers, and Mr Munro told the county council Police and Crime Panel (September 15) the recruiting was halfway there.

Since May 2019, 247 officers have joined, with most going into neighbourhood policing teams, and every ward in the county is to have a named PC or PCSO.

Surrey Police and Crime Commissioner David Munro

Mr Munro was answering Cllr Jonathan Essex (Green Party, Redhill East), who had said: “We’ve seen an increase in anti-social behaviour generally with motorbike gatherings, and a rise in drug-dealing in plain sight [in Earlswood], on CCTV in a sheltered older person’s housing area at the same time every week, all with no clear on-the-ground police response.

“With extra officers budgeted 2021 to 2022, will we see a return to more on-the-ground community police presence such as neighbourhood policing?”

Mr Munro said: “Can I give an assurance there will be more people on the ground? Yes, I can. The training wing has been bursting at the seams for months and they are starting to filter out on the ground.

“Through lockdown, police made several very good arrests of county lines dealers. One officer told me it seems the only people out after 10 at night are police officers or drug- dealers. We have more to go, of course, because we don’t have enough officers and staff to do everything we want.”He said they would get 181 extra officers over the next two years. He had hoped for more but that probably now won’t be possible due to the £5 million shortfall.

Last September, Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged to recruit 20,000 new police officers in England and Wales within three years. Mr Munro said: “I expect them to stick to that pledge.”

But he was concerned about retaining officers. At present, 5.8% of those leaving do so for reasons other than retirement. This compares with 6.1% in the previous year, but he thought fewer people were making career moves during the pandemic.

“It’s OK, but no more than OK,” Mr Munro added. “It’s no good turning the bath tap full on if we have a leaking plug at the bottom.”

Reassurance that neighbourhood policing teams will remain in their areas was sought because several stations are to be closed and sold to help pay for the new HQ planned to open on Cleeve Road in Leatherhead in the spring of 2024.

This will replace the 19th-century Mount Browne in Guildford, home to the forces since 1949, as well as Reigate and Woking stations and at Godstone and Burpham. But Mr Munro said: “This won’t happen for at least four or five years and my guess is slightly longer, because there’s no point selling before we’ve actually moved in.

“It is my pledge as long as I am PCC that there will be a police presence, bricks and mortar, in every single borough area of the county. That’s the case at present and that’s how it’s going to be.

“We are not exactly sure where we are going to put the Reigate local policing but it is my pledge, although they’ll have to move from the station, they will stay in Reigate, and there are various irons in the fire about where. That goes for every other borough.”

On Cleeve Road, an empty building has already been demolished to make way for the more centralised HQ, with construction expected to begin in two years. The building will house the specialist crime division, public protection team, roads policing and tactical firearms teams.

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