Norfolk one of the safest places in the country to live

Ben KendallNorfolk's status as one of the safest places to live in the country is confirmed this morning as an influential report praises police for being among the best value for money forces nationwide.Ben Kendall

Norfolk's status as one of the safest places to live in the country is confirmed this morning as an influential report praises police for being among the best value for money forces nationwide.

The review published today by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC), ranks every police force in England and Wales in terms of performance and use of public funds.

While many forces perform well at high cost or provide an average service at low cost, Norfolk is singled out for praise with inspectors noting that 'in this era of tightened budgets' the force 'performs well at a relatively low cost'.

Suffolk police is also described as providing a fair service at good value for money but, while Cambridgeshire fell in the lower cost bracket, its service was little better than average.

Norfolk's acting chief constable Ian Learmonth said a recent cost-cutting drive meant the county was in a good position to maintain its performance over coming years. All forces are expected to slash budgets following the general election and, although Norfolk will not escape the cuts, it will have a head-start.

Zo� Billingham, Her Majesty's inspector for Norfolk, said: 'Norfolk is one of the safest counties to live in the country. Over the last three years Norfolk constabulary has delivered a higher reduction in overall crime than many other forces in England and Wales.

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'The force is performing very well in solving the crimes that matter to local people, particularly in relation to house burglary and vehicle crime.'

In the comprehensive Police Report Card, Norfolk was rated as excellent for suppressing knife crime and reducing injuries and deaths on the county's roads. It was described as good when it comes to fighting local crime, protecting people from serious harm and solving and reducing crime.

On average Norfolk residents pay �185 per year in council tax - less per head than the average for similar forces.

Areas which still need improvement include increasing public confidence and improving visibility of officers on the street. Mr Learmonth said progress had been made since the report was compiled.

He added: 'It is now clear for all to see that Norfolk constabulary is a high-performing force which has driven down crime year on year to the lowest level in the country.

'We are solving more of the crimes that matter to local people. I am pleased for our staff as they are now recognised amongst their peers for their efforts and I am pleased for everyone in the county as they can be confident they are getting value for money policing.'

Last year changes to the force's internal structure released funds which were used to strengthen frontline policing; an additional 100 police officers were recruited and 178 police officers transferred to Safer Neighbourhood Teams.

Norfolk Police Authority chairman Stephen Bett said: 'We have consistently invested in the constabulary over the past years, and the good grades for local crime and policing, and protection from serious harm, show this money has been well spent.

'There are always improvements to be sought, and the authority will continue to press the constabulary and our new chief constable to achieve even more.'

The report card will feature on a new HMIC website which includes frequently updated information about how police forces are performing.