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Warning from outgoing Norfolk police chief

PUBLISHED: 11:00 17 December 2009 | UPDATED: 11:22 12 July 2010

Chief constable Ian McPherson

Chief constable Ian McPherson

Ben Kendall

Norfolk's outgoing police chief has warned there can be “no sacred cows” when it comes to cutting costs to protect the frontline.

In a farewell interview before leaving the county to join the Metropolitan police as assistant commissioner (territorial policing), chief constable Ian McPherson praised his officers and staff for their dedication since he took up the post three years ago.

Norfolk's outgoing police chief has warned there can be “no sacred cows” when it comes to cutting costs to protect the frontline.

In a farewell interview before leaving the county to join the Metropolitan police as assistant commissioner (territorial policing), chief constable Ian McPherson praised his officers and staff for their dedication since he took up the post three years ago.

During that time the force has cut crime by more than 30pc against a backdrop of £15m savings.

Mr McPherson, who plans to continue living in Norfolk, said: “It is testament to the officers and staff that they have succeeded in delivering such exceptional performance while at the same time undergoing a massive change in culture.

“I would also thank the people of Norfolk for their support. We are blessed to live in a beautiful place which is safe, but it is safe because of the people who live here.

“Norfolk police authority has also been extremely supportive and we have been able to work together to achieve our aims.”

Despite the positive message Mr McPherson warned that his successor will be forced to make tough decisions as public finances are squeezed tighter.

He said that a merger with Suffolk and possibly Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire police was becoming “inevitable” in order to achieve economies of scale.

But while such a move would primarily be aimed at combining backroom functions in order to save money, he said the force would do everything possible to avoid redundancies.

Mr McPherson said: “We have frozen a number of staff vacancies as we are aware that there are hard times ahead and hopefully that is one way that we can reduce the pain.”

The force is examining a number of measures including a controversial plan to reduce police station opening times. Mr McPherson said more choices will have to be made in order to achieve the priority of protecting the frontline.

Although there could be some “minor tweaking” in police officer numbers, he did not expect the force's establishment to change significantly.

“There are no sacred cows. Everything has to be focused on protecting the frontline as that it how we reach out to the community and, if we don't have that relationship with the public, what is the point in us being here?” he said.

“I don't want to tie the hands of whoever replaces me, but it is clear that the force has to consider all options in order to make efficiency savings.

“At the moment we are talking about closer collaboration with our neighbours and that collaboration will continue to grow. In my opinion merger is inevitable.”

Mr McPherson has led a major overhaul of how Norfolk police is run; not least scrapping local command units for one central unit and reducing the number of response bases but improving response times.

He said that he did not expect his successor to oversee another major period of upheaval. “I believe the structure that we have is working and other forces are beginning to look closely at the way we work,” he added.

“I would say why change it? Of course there is more work to be done but we have achieved an awful lot over the last three years.”

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