After declaring its space-sharing scheme on a local level a success, Hampshire Constabulary has announced that its senior officers are set to move in with the county's fire service.
Around 100 officers will move into Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service’s (HFRS) base in Eastleigh in a cost-saving initiative aimed at saving £500,000, with this likely to take place next Autumn.
The Eastleigh building will be refurbished to provide flexible accommodation while Hampshire Constabulary’s operational HQ will remain in Winchester, but will move from its current location in West Hill to a smaller building in Mottisfont Court.
It mirrors co-location moves in Farnborough , where neighbourhood officers have been based in Rushmoor Borough Council’s offices in Farnborough Road since the town’s police station closed last November. In Aldershot the library or the old town hall are being earmarked for a similar arrangement to allow the town’s own station to be sold off.
Over the past two years the fire and police services have successfully co-located police officers and staff into shared facilities within HFRS buildings, such as at Redbridge, Alresford and Stockbridge fire stations.
The latest announcement – the first of its kind in the country – are part of police and crime commissioner Simon Hayes’ efforts to increase integration and sharing of facilities with key partners.
He said: “It is only by investing in joint-working initiatives such as this that I will be able to protect people and places locally while ensuring that the police’s estate is cost-effective and fit for purpose despite significant economic challenges.”
Hampshire Fire Authority is seeking to address a £12million financial gap over the next five years and the move is viewed as a way of filling under-utilised buildings and protecting jobs.
Both organisations have submitted bids for government funding to make the collaboration happen. Hampshire Constabulary heard last week that it had been successful in gaining around £1million from the Home Office’s Police Innovation Fund.
It comes as Mr Hayes has warned that any further cuts to the force’s budget could put members of the public at risk.
A report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) revealed last week that Hampshire Constabulary is on track to achieve its target of £52.9 million of savings, but three quarters of that will be made through reducing its workforce.
The report was produced to show how police forces have coped with the government’s plans, announced in October 2010 to reduce budgets by 20% in the four years up to March 2015 and praised Hampshire for its forward planning which has ensured it is on track to achieve its savings target.
Mr Hayes said it was ‘reassuring’ that HMIC had judged Hampshire Constabulary to be a strong financial position, but warned: “The reality is that by 2017 the constabulary will have had £80 million of cuts imposed on it.
“The most recent cuts of £25 million by 2017 will result in losing in the region of 500 staff and officers.
“These are extremely difficult and challenging times for the force and have meant an extensive review of how policing is delivered.
“Going forward I question the extent to which more savings can be made through a future spending review before the quality of service is significantly affected and public safety is put at risk.”