Despite Leighton-Linslade being named the safest place to live in Beds – with its crime rate the second best since 2005 – Councillor Amanda Dodwell has remained in deadlock with Beds Police Crime Commissioner Olly Martins over policing.
Mrs Dodwell said: “As much as I appreciated the increase in PCSOs at the end of last year, it would seem that this only provided a temporary respite. There appears to be a significant underlying problem that the senior officers at Bedfordshire Police need to get a grip on.
“I am puzzled by the Police and Crime Commissioner’s approach to policing in general, and rural policing in particular. Last December he told a town council meeting in Arlesey that ‘police patrols do little to deter burglars’, and yet just last week he was quoted in the Luton press as saying that ‘residents … want a police force that is visible and responsive to them. That is what they expect and that is what I believe we can deliver’.”
“The PCC seems to be very keen to provide visible policing in urban areas – which coincidentally is where he is electorally strong – whereas in rural areas he dismisses visible policing as being unnecessary.
“I have long suspected that resources are being focused in Luton at the expense of Central Bedfordshire, and I believe this proves it. The PCC and his senior officers need to sort out rural policing.
“They need to end the uncertainty over the closure of our police station, and we need to see shift patterns revert to the pre-October 2012 model with PCs based in the town.”
Mr Martins said: “I don’t know where Leighton Linslade Mayor and Conservative Cllr Dodwell has been for the 14 months since I was first elected but addressing the visibility of Bedfordshire Police across the county has been a constant theme for me during this period.
“This is because police visibility is key to public confidence, which itself is key to building the strong partnership between local people and their police, which is what is required to keep our county safe even as police numbers reduce due to government funding cuts.
“Hence the statement on the first page of my Police and Crime Plan, published soon after I took office, that ‘The clear message that came across during the election campaign was that people want a visible and publicly accountable police force in Bedfordshire.’ (full document available at www.bedspcc.org).
“Hence practically the first significant decision I took was to reverse the planned 33% cut in our Police Community Support Officers, a decision taken by the previous Police Authority for budgetary reasons.
“Hence too my plan to more than double the size of our Special Constabulary, volunteer police officers who nonetheless have the same powers, uniform and equipment as their full-time counter-parts.
“Hence the recent recruitment of 80 new police officers after almost 4 years of a freeze on recruitment, allowing the force to re-balance and bolstering the front line.
“Hence our plans to revolutionise the Information Technology used by our officers, enabling then to spend a far greater proportion of their time out in communities instead of sat in front of a PC at the Police Station.
“I am confident that these plans will make Bedfordshire Police more visible across both our urban and rural communities, even at a time when significant government funding cuts mean that overall police officer numbers in the county will continue to fall.
“Of course Cllr Dodwell finds it politically convenient to ignore the financial realities of austerity and demands that the clock be turned back in terms of where Bedfordshire Police officers start and finish their shifts, as though this has an impact on the level of crime.
“In fact crime in the town was higher 5 years ago, when some officers did start and finish their shifts at Leighton Buzzard station, than it is now.
“And if Cllr Dodwell would like to work with the Police and I, instead of making hay to party political ends, I’m sure we can keep crime in the Leighton Buzzard area low.”