Newly-elected Beds police and crime commissioner Kathryn Holloway has pledged to look into whether Leighton Buzzard is getting the level of extra policing it is paying for.
At tonight’s annual town meeting, councillors are set to discuss the future of Operation Dodford – a £40,000 publicly-funded budget to pay for additional police patrols in the town.
The scheme has come under fire in recent months as Beds Police has struggled to muster up officers for additional shifts, leaving much of the Leighton-Linslade Town Council fund unspent.
Concerns have also been raised about the suitability of the scheme, as many believe that the force is charging the town council for policing it should already provide.
One of those who has brought up the issue is Cllr Ken Ferguson, who told us: “Extra activity should include those festivals and town sponsored events where a police presence is desirable but not within their normal range of duties.
“Over the last year Dodford funding has been used to support what should be normal policing activity. For example, it is a complete nonesence that a shoplifter is arrested by officers acting under the Dodford arrangements when all law breaking and crime is within their normal policing duties.
“It is of no comfort to our residents to know that the major crime spots in Luton and Bedford take up most of the available police presence.
“However at the last Council Meeting on the 25th April, I expressed a most strongly held view, which enjoyed broad support and agreement, that the citizens of Leighton Linslade are entitled to have their community patrolled and protected by Bedfordshire Police without the need to find funds to employ off-duty police on voluntary overtime.
“The police precept on the Council Tax Bill is how we pay for the protection of our residents.”
Speaking to the LBO, PCC Kathryn Holloway said she would evaluate Operation Dodford “as the council should clearly receive what it pays for”.
Mrs Holloway added: “I entirely share the concern relating to the Leighton Buzzard Dodford deployment in the past and a determination to improve the position in the future.
“I have been in post for only 48 hours but have already raised the specific question of policing in Leighton Buzzard with both the deputy chief constable and chief constable, in person. I intend to set the policing of the town as one of three initial operational priorities for the force.”
Mrs Holloway said that she is looking to set up a community policing hub in Leighton Buzzard to be led by a sergeant.
The PCC also intends to transfer an officer or member of staff to the front desk of the town’s police station.
The ‘closed’ sign currently shown at the station “sends entirely the wrong message to both residents and the criminal fraternity,” she said.