Sussex Police and Surrey Police have been given the go-ahead to work together in three areas.
Following the approval of the Surrey Police Authority last week (Thursday 19 May) and the Sussex Police Authority yesterday (Thursday 26 May), plans will now be finalised for the forces to jointly provide major crime investigation, forensic and scientific services, and firearms.
Both authorities emphasised the importance of ensuring the needs of local people are at the centre of the changes, made clear this decision is not a precursor to a merger and reflected on similar successful arrangements in nearby areas such as Kent/Essex and Bedfordshire/Hertfordshire.
Chairman of the Surrey Police Authority, Peter Williams, commented: “Police authorities are responsible for striking a balance between providing the resources our Chief Constables need to keep the public safe and providing value for money to the taxpayers who fund our service.
“Collaborating on major crime investigation, forensics and firearms in Surrey and Sussex will help us to make even more - both operationally and financially - of the significant investment we make in these essential police services.
“We will continue to look for further opportunities to collaborate with our neighbouring authorities that may offer similar benefits.”
Dr Laurie Bush - who stepped down from his position as Chairman of the Sussex Police Authority on Thursday but will retain his role as Lead Member for Collaboration - added: “These areas of collaboration represent a huge step forward and will allow Sussex and Surrey to work together in an more efficient and effective way for the benefit of the communities they serve.
“I have been involved in this work from the beginning and have been impressed with the progress made in a relatively short time. Collaboration is always challenging at the start but we will now begin to reap the benefits in a way that will really serve the people of Sussex and Surrey.”
Chief Officers are committed to delivering excellent policing to people in Surrey and Sussex and are convinced collaborating in these areas will provide significant benefits for both forces and the communities they serve.
Collaboration will create more capacity and resilience in areas of reactive policing that happen less-frequently but are incredibly important and resource-intensive, such as firearms incidents and murder investigations. It will also allow the forces to align operating procedures so they can work seamlessly together during larger incidents.
In addition, the change will help make savings and is being considered alongside other work each force is doing to meet the public sector spending challenge. Annual savings of at least £3.46 million in total for the two forces are estimated when the changes are fully implemented, although the primary reason for working together is to enable effective, future-proof policing, not just to save money. Most of these savings are planned to come from a leaner management structure and stopping duplication of some tasks.
Sussex Chief Constable Martin Richards said: “I have recently spoken about my vision for the future of policing in Sussex. I made it clear that to maintain an excellent service in light of the challenges we face, we need to start thinking and doing things differently.
“Working closely with our neighbours in Surrey provides an excellent opportunity to ensure top-class policing can be provided across both forces in these vital areas. Changes won’t happen overnight and we now enter a detailed period of consultation and planning.”
Deputy Chief Constable Craig Denholm of Surrey Police added: “Surrey Police is committed to putting the needs and wishes of our communities at the heart of everything we do, and this latest collaboration opportunity with Sussex Police is an important part of our Surrey Public First strategy.
“Working together in major crime, scientific support and tactical firearms, under a joint Assistant Chief Constable, Olivia Pinkney, will improve our policing performance as well as increasing our resilience. The lean structure will enable savings to be made and duplication to be avoided, as it will make the most of officers and staff across both forces.
“Most importantly, collaborating will ensure Surrey and Sussex residents can continue to be confident that they will receive an excellent and efficient service that keeps them safe from harm”
Already the forces work together in a number of areas. Last year the South East Air Support Unit was set up, also including Hampshire Constabulary. With two shared helicopters, air support can reach any part of the three force area within 25 minutes, maintaining public service and saving £8 million for the three forces over the next five years.
From 6 June, Assistant Chief Constable Olivia Pinkney will take a joint command post - being part of the Chief Officer teams for both forces - in charge of the collaborated areas. She will also lead for Surrey and Sussex on the South East Air Support Unit and the Regional Organised Crime Unit where forces already work together to tackle serious, organised criminality.
Leads for each of the three areas have been also appointed - Detective Superintendent John Boshier for Major Crime, Louise Whiteoak for Scientific Support and Superintendent Rachel Tills for Firearms. They will now work to build detailed plans to implement the changes; consulting with staff who will be part of the collaborated teams, speaking to other organisations the police work with and ensuring the people of Surrey and Sussex are at the heart of all decisions.
The work will be staged to ensure there is no impact on public service in these vital areas of policing and implementation is planned to take place over the next year. No immediate changes are planned and further information will be released when the plans are completed.