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Issue:- 03 November  2011

Statement from Merseyside Police & Police Authority Following Proposal Agreements

MERSEYSIDE Police Authority (MPA) on Thursday, 27 October 2011, agreed a number of changes that will be made within the force. Merseyside Police has to make recurring annual savings of £61.5 million over four years and the proposals approved by the Police Authority today will contribute almost £12.5 million to that target. These savings are necessary to meet the reduced budget set by the Government. Deputy Chief Constable of Merseyside Police Bernard Lawson said:- "Throughout the process of identifying savings we have done everything in our power to protect front line policing and we remain totally committed to providing an excellent policing service to the communities of Merseyside. Wherever possible we have continued to make changes to our back office functions to ensure that officers can be returned to front line policing roles. However, with the scale of the cuts it is inevitable that there will be an impact on the service that we are able to provide. The reduction in officers across the force will occur through natural wastage over the next 3 years. In all the changes we have made we have focused on what the public tell us is important. We will maintain a visible policing presence, answer your phone calls within our target time and attend, both emergency and non-emergency calls, within our agreed target time. We will also carry out thorough and professional investigations into crimes that are committed. For this reason, the number of detectives within area CID offices will increase by 20 officers. I must emphasise that no police stations will close but as part of the cost saving proposals the MPA has agreed a number of changes to General Enquiry Office (GEO) opening times across the force area. The number of GEOs across the force will reduce from 34 to 12. I would reassure our communities that all residents will have access to a 24 hour police station within their local area and another GEO that is open from 8am until 10pm. This represents a reduction of only one 24-hour GEO across the force. In a recent audit of GEOs many of them had less than 10 visitors per day and so the officers in these roles will be moved to roles where demand for their services is greater. Members of the community will continue to be able to access the police in a variety of ways including face to face, over the phone, community meetings, online and calling into a police station or access point. As part of our review we have looked carefully at those areas of high demand so that we can match our resources appropriately and meet the demand effectively. We believe strongly in our neighbourhood policing model and that will not change although some areas may see some changes in the make up of their neighbourhood teams.  As part of the changes we have also centralised a number of different functions including intelligence functions and the sex offender management units. The centralisation of these units will allow greater resilience across the force, encourage best practice and cut out duplication of work. There will be a small reduction in Matrix detectives but with the centralisation of the intelligence function across the force this will not impact on our ability to fight against gun crime.  These changes represent a challenge for our force. However, I am confident that we will deliver the cost savings while continuing to provide an excellent policing service across our region. We are incredibly proud of the falls in crime that we have seen in Merseyside over recent years and we will continue to work tirelessly to reduce crime and put offenders before the courts so that justice can be done."

Cllr Bill Weightman, Chair of the Merseyside Police Authority said:- "Our local communities are at the heart of all Merseyside Police Authority decisions, and I can reassure people the changes we have agreed to this week are the result of a robust process of considering and debating the options. Having said that, we have been in the unfortunate position of balancing what matters most to the people of Merseyside with the need to make £61.5m savings following Government cuts to our funding  In terms of what matters most, people tell us they want to see bobbies on the beat and that we should continue to focus on anti-social behaviour. For that reason, we supported the Chief Constable’s proposals to close a number of GEOs, many of which are not well-used. In the current environment, it makes sense to release as many officers as possible from behind these desks where they come into contact with relatively few people. The proposals agreed by the police authority will mean instead an additional 38 police officers out on our streets, keeping people safe. I would also like to reassure people that we haven’t considered the closure of a single police station. All police stations will remain open and vital to Merseyside’s neighbourhood policing model. Victims of crime and others who would like to speak to their neighbourhood officers at their local police station will still be able to do so by appointment. As for the future, Merseyside Police Authority will continue to scrutinise police performance, especially in areas where changes have been made, to make sure Merseyside Police is doing everything it can to make the most of the resources it has, and continues to provide the best service possible. Even after this week’s decisions, the people of Merseyside should be made aware there remains a need to make an additional £24m of savings over the next two financial years to meet the published requirement within the Comprehensive Spending Review. Proposals to freeze Council Tax in 2012/13 also represent a cut in police authority funding in subsequent years. The authority recognises the ongoing governance and scrutiny of these measures will lie with the Government’s directly elected Police and Crime Commissioner."

20mph plans to make Liverpool safer

THE GREEN light is set to be given to plans to dramatically increase the number of 20mph areas in Liverpool.  The city council’s Cabinet will be asked to approve proposals on Friday 4 November to more than double the number of residential roads with 20mph speed limits.

Currently, 31% of residential roads in Liverpool are subject to the 20mph speed limit.. Plans are being put forward by the city council and Liverpool Primary Care Trust (PCT), with the support of Merseyside Police, to extend this by a further 39%, or 587km of roads, across the city. This would result in 70% of Liverpool’s roads having 20mph limits.

It is estimated that the initiative, which would take 4 years to fully implement, could reduce the number of road traffic accidents in Liverpool by 54 a year, providing a saving of over £5.2 million a year in the costs associated with these incidents.

It is part of the city’s plans to make roads safer and reduce the number of deaths and injuries from accidents. Research shows that a pedestrian has a 50 per cent chance of surviving if they are hit by a car travelling at 30mph; this figure increases to 90% if a car is travelling at 20mph.

The 20mph limits, which would be implemented through the introduction of road signs in the selected areas, would support the 3rd Local Transport Plan for Merseyside, which highlights the importance of increasing the number of low-speed areas in the region.

Liverpool City Council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Transport, Councillor Malcolm Kennedy, said: "This is a really important project, which we believe will bring massive benefits to our city. It will make our roads safer, potentially saving hundreds of lives, and it could present a saving to society of over £5million a year.  Initial consultation has taken place with stakeholders and we’ve received a good deal of support. The next stage is to consult with members of the public, which will be taking place over the next few months. Ultimately, we want to create a city for living in, rather than just a thoroughfare for vehicles, and an increase in 20mph roads will play a major part in helping us achieve that."

The city council is basing its plans on the experiences of other areas which have introduced extensive 20mph speed limits on their residential roads; in particular Portsmouth and Warrington; which have shown encouraging benefits which could be translated to Liverpool.

Portsmouth has introduced a 20mph speed limit on 94% of its roads, while Warrington has conducted a smaller-scale trial in 3 areas. Evaluation of their experiences showed a reduction of between 21% and 25% in the number of road traffic accidents.  And in Portsmouth, road speeds dropped by an average of 6.3mph in the new 20mph areas.

As well as providing road safety improvements, the plans would also bring benefits to local people’s health, through the promotion of safe walking and cycling.

Dr Paula Grey, Director of Public Health for Liverpool, said:- "In recent years the amount of collisions in Liverpool has been greatly reduced, but the city still has an unacceptably high number of road accidents. Our youngest residents are particularly vulnerable to these type of incidents, with Liverpool children facing one of the highest road casualty risks in the country. We know that cutting speed can save lives, as well as making our neighbourhoods much more pleasant places to live. And by making roads safer we create more opportunities for people to use greener forms of transport; for example cycling and walking; which are also better for their health."

Under the plans, Liverpool has been divided up into 7 areas, and these are being prioritised based on the number of collisions. The scheme would cover the majority of residential roads, including roads outside schools on strategic routes, where possible. 20mph limits would only be introduced where there is clear support from local residents.

The majority of pedestrian accidents in Liverpool occur in built-up areas, and hospital admissions caused by road traffic injuries are higher in more deprived areas of the city.

Roads which would be exempt from becoming 20mph would include roads with existing speed limits of 40mph or more; most A and B roads; and major through routes which are not primarily residential in nature and have little or no pedestrian or cyclist movements.

Merseyside Police Chief Inspector, John Hogan, said:- "The police welcome any reduction in speed which may drive down the number of people killed or seriously injured on our roads. These 20mph limits will assist us to make the roads of Merseyside a safer place and to deal positively with a small number of offenders who continue to drive with a complete disregard for others."

If the plans are approved, the city council will work with Liverpool PCT and Merseyside Police to drive forward the scheme, including community engagement and evaluation of the impact of the 20mph limits on walking, cycling, safety, noise and air quality. A public consultation will be held towards the end of 2011 to gather views, before further plans are put in place. 
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