Serious question marks have been raised over the future of a £40,000 budget paying for extra police patrols in Leighton Buzzard – as Beds Police is struggling to muster up officers for the additional shifts.
As things stand Leighton-Linslade Town Council pays Beds Police for extra bobbies on the beat – mostly to ensure police visibility on market days and on Friday and Saturday evenings.
However the scheme is reliant on officers voluntarily signing up for overtime and due to financial cutbacks fewer staff has meant fewer willing takers.
As a result much of the £40,000 Operation Dodford budget is likely to remain unspent, placing the future of the scheme in jeopardy.
Town council leader Councillor Amanda Dodwell, told the LBO: “It is a very concerning situation.
“Crime figures were up at the end of 2015 and there is a pressing need to have cover for the nighttime economy and the market during the day – which we’ve had some disturbances on.
“Residents feel like there is no visibility and people were amazed that robbers were able to drive a JCB down the high street and into a bank (Santander) without anybody being able to get down there and sort out the situation.
“The problem is that we haven’t been able to call on officers to support us and people in the town feel like they have been abandoned.
“It is not their [Beds Police] fault, there is a scarcity of funding and they need to meet the needs of Luton’s large urban population.
“However they also need to meet the needs of its rural surroundings and a market town.”
The council’s outstanding agreement with Beds Police is likely to be reviewed following the police and crime commissioner elections on May 5, Cllr Dodwell added.
She said: “The other problem we have is that from February onwards the number of PCSOs has been halved and we are very concerned about the impact this will have.
“It is rare to see an officer in the town.
“At the moment Operation Dodford is making up for policing we should already have.
“There is a desperate need for more policing in the town and for us to have a vibrant market without any disturbances.”
In recent weeks a similar scheme Beds Police has with Houghton Regis Town Council has been brought into question, due to a similar lack of neighbourhood resources.
Police and crime comissioner Olly Martins is set to address the matter at a meeting in Houghton Regis on Thursday, after promising to review the £33,000 agreement.
Mr Martins has told the LBO that the situation in Leighton Buzzard will also be closely monitored.
He said: “I have asked the force for an update as deployment of resources really is an operational matter.
“I am aware that while the new operational model has been embedding, there have been some fluctuations in community policing presence which is to be expected, but I’m confident that as we move forward the community policing footprint will improve in all areas.”
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