More police planned for rural Northumberland after discussion over resources

More police resources could be on the way to rural areas of north Northumberland.

Thursday, 22nd August 2019, 5:45 pm
Updated Tuesday, 27th August 2019, 1:24 am
The police office at the Cheviot Centre in Wooler will remain.

Proposed changes being considered by Northumbria Police were outlined at a meeting between Berwick area neighbourhood inspector John Swan and Wooler Parish Council.

The meeting had been requested by parish councillors due to concerns about the length of time it took police to respond to a road accident after the Glendale Festival in July when a 54-year-old man sustained a fractured spine on The Peth.

Insp Swan confirmed that the initial call was logged at 9.08pm and the first unit to arrival attended at 9.30pm. He acknowledged that this was outside of the desired response time but felt it was good for a rural area.

“I disagree,” said Coun Mark Mather, parish council chairman, at Monday night’s follow-up parish meeting. He was also concerned at reports that police back-up had to travel a long way.

However, Coun Angus Murray, a former police officer, said: “Unfortunately the police are between a rock and a hard place because they’re 22,500 officers down on when I joined and they simply haven’t got enough officers to cover the area,” he said. “They are giving us the best they can.”

Coun Mather responded: “We are here to represent the community and they are saying they want to see officers and the big political picture isn’t our problem.”

Parish councillors felt there should have been a police presence at the Glendale Festival but Insp Swan said he did not have any spare staff to attend.

Insp Swan then went onto outline proposed changes that are currently under consultation. In a major change, 22% of crime is currently rural, but 40% of police staff were being allocated to the rural area. He said this reflected a massive change in resourcing.

He hoped there would be a neighbourhood police team with a police community support officer (PCSO) visible on the High Street on a regular basis. The new neighbourhood team would also include a CID officer and this was in addition to the policing already in place.

Wooler would be covered from the Berwick office because it was felt that staff worked better within a team.

“I do think the PCSOs in the area will be an improvement and I think the current proposal is better than the one we were presented with a year ago,” said Coun Mather, although he was concerned that time would be lost with officers travelling between Berwick and Wooler.

Insp Swan confirmed that any changes would not be made before January 2020 and that the Wooler police station office in the Cheviot Centre will remain.