POLICE officers could be working out of fire stations if plans to axe some stations are approved.
Just seven weeks into the job, Cheshire Police and Crime Commissioner John Dwyer is reviewing all the force’s assets, including Knutsford’s station.
“We’re facing a significant gap in funding,” said Mr Dwyer at the police headquarters in Winsford last Tuesday.
“There are big challenges ahead, and we need to look at everything including police officers working out of different premises like fire stations.
“We need to work with other agencies to do things differently.”
Mr Dwyer will set next year’s budget in March, and £7 million of savings are needed.
Based on an increase of two per cent in council tax police precept, savings identified include employing 38 fewer police officers, 35 fewer police staff and cutting overtime by £230,000.
Mr Dwyer, who said he has inherited one of the best police forces in the country, is trying to reduce costs by introducing better practices.
Chief Constable David Whatton told the meeting that although the Government was enforcing cuts it had taken a lot of central direction away, including focus on national agendas not relevant to Cheshire.
This, he said, has enabled them to take a lot of costs out.
“There has been collaboration with other forces and we’re working smarter,” said Mr Whatton.
“Cheshire has one of the lowest management costs in the country.
“We’re still recruiting and there are still promotions, but not in the same numbers.”
Despite the cuts, Mr Whatton said his staff are very proud of their achievements in continuing to reduce crime.
Unlike other forces, Mr Whatton confirmed that there are no plans to make long-serving police officers compulsorily retire.
“We can’t make police officers redundant, but other forces have made them retire,” said Mr Watton.
“There are no plans for this in the next financial budget, but we will review this every year.”
Mr Dwyer said he and the chief constable have already formed a good relationship and hold regular meetings.
“We’re never going to be big buddies, said Mr Dwyer.
“We have a professional relationship, but it’s not cosy.”
One of Mr Dwyer’s aims is for Cheshire to have an officer in every town and village.
“We will draw from the local community including special constables – after all, these people know their communities better than anyone,” he said.
“Just because we don’t have a police station in every village doesn’t mean there isn’t an officer present. Cheshire is a safe county to live.
“Ninety five per cent of the people are hard-working – it’s only a small proportion who cause problems.”