Termination of dedicated town centre policing in Tilbury and Purfleet moves closer after councillors recommend pulling funding

By Nub News Reporter

27th Feb 2023 | Local News

Councillors at this evening's meeting.
Councillors at this evening's meeting.

DEDICATED policing of Purfleet and Tilbury by four officers funded by Thurrock Council could end in the near future.

As part of a review of its spending, cash-strapped Thurrock Council has reviewed how officers it pays for are used - and the option includes scrapping them all together.

The matter was debated in public this evening (Monday, 27 February) at an extraordinary meeting of the cleaner, greener and safer overview & scrutiny committee. Last month the same meeting was adjourned after concerns were expressed about why the item was scheduled to be held in secret.

Thurrock Nub News first highlighted the potential cuts prior to that meeting and questioned the secrecy issue.

This evening the matter was debated in public. 

Five options were brought back tonight when, on a panel of six councillors, three voted to cut the funding when the existing contract expires in April – or possibly even sooner. They bought the argument that the allocated funding would be able to be 'reinvested' and would offset some shortfalls in other areas of the council's operation.

The other four options were

  • 2. The four officers be deployed to other areas covered by town centre policing teams, namely Grays, Ockendon and Stanford le Hope/Corringham according to intelligence and operational demand.
  • 3. Two funded officers remain in Tilbury with the two Purfleet officers being able to be deployed to other areas covered by town centre teams.
  • 4. Two funded officers remain dedicated to Purfleet and Tilbury (one in each area) and two officers deployed to other areas covered by town centre teams.
  • 5. No change to current arrangements

Members were briefed on the options by the council's assistant director for investigation, enforcement & community safety, Michael Dineen, who told members he would take their individual views back for consideration by the council's cabinet.

Cllr Gary Byrne was immediately on the front foot, challenging Mr Dineen about why Stanford-le-Hope and Corringham were being treated as one town centre, when there are two centres. He said: "Grays is one place, Ockendon is one place. Why are Stanford and Corringham treated differently?

Mr Dineen said: "I can't speak to the specifics of the town centre teams", while committee chair Cllr Joy Redsell described the Stanford and Corringham centres as 'just one street'.

That prompted a verbal exchange between Cllrs Redsell and Byrne, with the latter saying he would take no further part in the meeting – a pledge he quickly reneged as he became involved in further discussion.

Cllr Sara Muldowney wanted to know why options that had had been put to councillors on the paper planned to be discussed in secret, were different to the options put forward this evening.

Mr Dineen said: "We had dialogue with the police and they asked us to change wording, moving away from words like 'tasking'.

Cllr Muldowney disputed that, saying option two that had been taken off the table, was substantially changed from 'district wide' to 'town centre teams'. 

Cllr Redsell said: "We have to vote on what's in front of us. Police want it so they can control where police are and where they want to send them.

"The police are being tied in to what they have got. They want it back in their hands so they can send the police where they should be."

Dedicated police officers in Tilbury and Purfleet could be cut

Cllr Maureen Pearce asked about town centre policing and how decisions were made, saying: "I live in Aveley, we share in with Ockendon. Is there any chance in future we might get officers in Aveley."

Mr Dineen said: "I can't answer for the resources of the police. The only thing I can comment on is the four officers we are funding and where we want them to go."

Cllr Muldowney asked him: "What is the point of this meeting? We can't vote on a recommendation," to be told: "I would note down your responses and make the cabinet aware of the individual views of this meeting so they are well aware of the views of this committee.

"This meeting is to give the cabinet a well-rounded view."

Cllr Redsell said: "We would like to see policing in all parts of the borough. To me as I see to this they can use their intelligence where to put their own police officers. It may be they send them to Stanford or Corringham."

Cllr Steve Liddiard said: "It is seems that most of the crime happens in Tilbury and Purfleet so in my view you should put the resource where the crime is."

Mr Dineen said the new plans gave more freedom to the police who could target areas where there is a spike in crime rate or anti-social behaviour

Cllr Muldowney countered: "That's why the officers were deployed to those areas in the first place - therefore removing them is going to be damaging."

Mr Dineen responded: "We are not removing those officers (from Tilbury and Purfleet) so they don't step in those areas ever again and he added that, 'before Christmas there was no crime in Purfleet' indicating officers could be moved away from dedicated duties there, but he appeared not to appreciate a counter-argument that the reason crime was down was because the officers were in Purfleet.

Cllr Redsell again interjected, saying: "As councillors we know when there is trouble in our area we can tell the police. I want to put this in the police's hands. At the moment officers are having to stay where we put them."

She then added: "If we don't terminate this, the police have no control over their own officers. I think we have done our best for the four-five years we have been doing it. We should send them back to give the police control of their own officers.

Cllr Paul Arnold said: "It is best to give the police command and to deploy its force where it is necessary.

"It's a good point to say we want to see police on the beat but let's face it we don't know where the police officers are. Police should be deployed where they need to be on the night".

Cllr Liddard then questioned the whole principle of the councillors paying for additional officers, saying: "The local authority shouldn't be funding police officers at all, that should be the police authority. I think this is one area that's likely to be cut anyway with the problems facing the council."

That prompted agreement from Cllr Redsell who said terminating the extra officers immediately was a good option.

She added: "As an authority we shouldn't be paying police officers - we should be paying for nurses to do something or whatever.

"Perhaps it has worked for the four or five years we have been funding it but I don't see us employing four officers! I want to terminate now. We should give it back to the police now. We should put it in the hands of the commissioner."

Cllr Byrne added: "I am with the chair on that one. We can't support another service when we can't support our own services. It has to be option one."

Mr Dineen interjected: "All councillors are aware that all committees have been looking at all savings. "We don't have an obligation to do this. This is a saving that has been put forward. It is something put forward for obvious reasons."

Cllr Muldowny said: "I am definitely not in favour of terminating" but added she might support one of the other options 'as long as you can offer me some comfort that Tilbury that the ability to redeploy. And that what has been achieved in Tilbury and Purfleet will not be jeopardised.

Mr Dineen said: "If your area needs it , it should still receive it. It gets away from areas having police officers where there is no need for them to be there."

Cllrs Pearce, Redsell and Byrne voted in favour of termination of the additional funding as soon as possible, Cllr Arnold supported four officers being deployed to other areas covered by town centre policing teams while Cllr Liddard opted for Tilbury to retain its two police officers – saying 'there will be fallout from this' while Cllr Muldowney opted for the funding to continue under current stipulations.

The whole argument may be repeated next year when the current contract for a remaining seven officers funded by Thurrock Council runs out.

     

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