Police ‘told to catch the bus’
By Clevedon People | Thursday, October 21, 2010, 11:00
CASH-strapped police chiefs are telling officers to catch the bus while on duty in an attempt to save money on their vehicle costs.
Avon and Somerset Constabulary has reduced the number of patrol cars at Clevedon and Portishead police station to help balance the budgets and reduce costs.
Police community support officers (PCSOs) at both stations have now been handed bus timetables and told to use public transport to get to jobs if no car is available.
One response car from each station has been cut – meaning each town now only has one fully-equipped patrol car for its beat officers to use.
The response cars are faster, bigger vehicles and fitted with a range of equipment including radios, lights and sirens, a computer data terminal and kit to deal with incidents such as accidents and arrest offenders.
Each station also has two safer, stronger neighbourhood cars for the PSCOs to use.
But as these cars are smaller, they do not carry much equipment and are not fitted with sirens or lights or a data terminal for officers to plug into and access information.
They are normally used for community policing, such as visiting schools and public reassurance patrols rather than for emergency response.
Portishead police station has five beat managers, a sergeant and seven PCSOs, while Clevedon has four beat managers, a sergeant and six PCSOs.
It is understood the number of cars for the Nailsea station beat team, which has six PCSOs and six beat officers, has remained the same.
The 24/7 response team for the northern sector of the district is also based at Nailsea station and deal with day-to-day incidents, from shoplifters to road accidents.
It is understood that the number of patrol cars used by the response teams, which respond to incidents around the clock, has been unaffected.
A further response vehicle has also been cut from the North Somerset area, but it is not known from which department or station.
The cuts to the police’s fleet of cars in North Somerset is part of a force-wide review of the constabulary’s vehicle costs. Because officers and PCSOs work a shift system, not all the cars are needed at the same time. Police have always been able to travel on buses for free as part of an agreement between the force and bus operators.
Police chiefs said the review was prompted because many cars were left standing empty at stations across the district.
Chief Inspector Paul Richard said: “We are looking at the number and type of vehicles we need and how we use them in all districts across the Avon and Somerset Force area.
“We have too many and there is little point in vehicles sitting unused for significant lengths of time. It costs money and it doesn’t help us to improve our carbon footprint. The review of vehicles will help us to save money, and ensure that we’re getting optimum use out of our fleet.
“We encourage our PCSOs and neighbourhood teams to use all forms of transport, and have done so for many years – including taking a bus, cycling and walking.
“It allows officers to get out in the community and be as visible as possible to local residents.”