More police on the way, says Surrey PCC

Admin, 17 September 2020

David Munro, Surrey Police and Crime Commissioner (credit: Surrey County Council)
By Julie Armstrong, Local Democracy Reporter, 16 September 2020

The Surrey Police and Crime Commissioner has guaranteed a local police presence will remain after a new headquarters is built in Leatherhead – and before then will be boosted in numbers.

The force needs an extra 500 staff members and officers, and police and crime commissioner David Munro told the Surrey Police and Crime Panel on Tuesday (15 September) that they were halfway there.

Surrey Police have taken on 247 officers since May 2019, with most new recruits being put into neighbourhood policing teams, and in a new strategy, every ward in the county is to be given a named PC or PCSO.

Mr Munro made the assurances in response to Green Party Councillor Jonathan Essex, who covers Redhill East, who said: “We’ve seen an increase in anti-social behaviour generally in terms of motorbike gatherings, and a rise in drug-dealing in plain sight [in Earlswood] – in this case under CCTV in a sheltered older person’s housing area at the  same time every week, all with no clear on-the-ground police response.

“With 150 extra officers budgeted by 2021 to 2022, will we see a return to more on-the-ground community police presence such as neighbourhood policing?”

Mr Munro said: “Through the period of lockdown, police made several very good arrests of county lines dealers, because a police officer told me the only people out after 10 at night are police officers or drug dealers.

“We have more to go of course because we don’t have enough officers and staff to do everything we want.

“Can I give an assurance there will be more people on the ground? Yes I can. The training wing has been bursting at the seams for months and they are starting now to filter out on the ground.”

He said they would get 181 extra officers over the next two years. He had hoped for more but that probably now won’t be possible due to a shortfall in the collection of council tax during Covid.

Last September Boris Johnson pledged to recruit 20,000 new police officers in England and Wales within three years.

Mr Munro said: “I expect them to stick to that pledge.”

He was concerned about retaining officers – currently 5.8% of those leaving do so for reasons other than retirement. This compares with 6.1% in the previous year, but he thought it was because fewer people were making career moves during the pandemic.

“It’s OK, but no more than OK, and it’s no good turning the bath tap full on if we have a leaking plug at the bottom,” said Mr Munro.

The PCC reiterated that neighbourhood policing teams will remain in their local areas when their stations are shut down and sold off.

A new Surrey Police headquarters planned for Cleeve Road in Leatherhead is expected to open in the spring of 2024 at the earliest and will replace the current HQ Mount Browne in Guildford, as well as Reigate and Woking police stations and the sites at Godstone and Burpham.

These will all be sold to help fund the new facility, but Mr Munro said this would not be until after the move.

He said: “It won’t happen for at least four or five years and my guess is slightly longer, because there’s no point selling before we’ve actually moved in.

“It is my pledge as long as I am PCC that there will be a police presence, bricks and mortar, in every single borough area of the county. That’s the case at present and that’s how it’s going to be.

“We are not exactly sure where we are going to put the Reigate local policing but it is my pledge, although they’ll have to move from Reigate police station, they will stay in Reigate, and there are various irons in the fire as to where. And that goes for every other borough.”

An empty building has already been demolished to make way for the new building work, expected to begin in two years and last two years.

The specialist crime division, public protection team, roads policing and tactical firearms teams will be based at the more centralised Leatherhead site.