‘We’ll foot The Bill’

Taxpayers in Leighton look set to front the cost of new equipment and training courses for police officers due to the county force’s extensive cutbacks, the LBO can reveal.

Each year the town council sets aside tens of thousands of pounds to secure extra police patrols in Leighton-Linslade.

Over the last year a switch in focus from PCSOs to unpaid special constables meant that by the end of December little over half of the £40,000 Operation Dodford fund had been spent. Despite this extra cash from the fund will not be added back to the council’s coffers but instead will go towards funding four radio units for officers, with a deal for training programmes also agreed in principle.

Minutes for the council’s last police liason sub-committee concede that these items “should be the responsibility of the police” but that “it was recognised that budgetary constraints restricted certain activities or projects at present.”

Town mayor Ray Berry told the LBO that it is “frustrating” the resources could not be covered by Beds Police.

He said: “It is really frustrating that the police are not able to provide the equipment to be able to do their job to the best effect.

“But we have to recognise that the Chief Constable’s budget is limited, she cannot do everything. If we can help we will, that is what Operation Dodford is for.”

The four radio units, which are expected to cost £500 in total, are being purchased to replace out of date equipment.

They will be used to keep neighbourhood officers in touch with Central Beds Council’s CCTV control room, as well as shopkeepers in the town centre.

Training programmes for officers are also set to be funded by the council, which has agreed to the plan in principle.

Neighbourhood sergeant Andy Rivers is due to report back to Leighton-Linslade Town Council with more details on the cost of these.

Cllr Berry asserted that the equipment and training would directly benefit Leighton.

He said: “It is all about getting more bang for our buck, we want to put the feet in the right place at the right time.

“At the moment they are not getting any benefit from their equipment so we will replace it to make them more effective.”

He added that training could include getting officers better acquainted with the geography of the town.

He said: “A while ago I saw a cyclist being chased up Sandy Lane by an officer in a squad car.

“I stopped the policeman in the road and told him there was no point following up Sandy Lane as the cyclist would just got through the bollards at the top of the road.

“If they were able to get training on the roads and where things are it will make our money better spent.”

LBO readers have revealed their surprise to the funding agreement.

Debbie Birch said: “I don’t think it will help solve crime in Leighton Buzzard at all, surely the police are already trained, a few new radios really is not going to help.”

Colin Johnson added: “The problem with our town council making up a shortfall in the provision of police radios is that it sets a precedent.

“The town council may get caught in the trap of bailing out the police budget in future when the next need comes up.”

> What do you make of the budget spend? Email news@lbobserver.co.uk