Councillors baulk at 16% hike in cost of funding town’s extra police officer

Logo of Bradley Stoke Town Council.

Councillors have expressed “significant concerns” regarding a requested 16 percent increase in the town council’s contribution towards the funding of an additional part-time police officer dedicated to Bradley Stoke.

The council has written to Sarah Crew, Chief Constable of Avon and Somerset Police, and Mark Shelford, Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), questioning the size of the annual increase and at the same time expressing concern at the “lack of visible police presence” in Bradley Stoke, along with disappointment at the “level of police support for community events” over the past year.

This latter aspect is said to have been “particularly noticeable at this year’s town council fireworks display and also at the Remembrance Day event organised by 1st Bradley Stoke Scout Group [when the parade from the Jubilee Centre had to be cancelled at short notice due to road safety concerns]”.

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In a further criticism, the letter adds:

“Recently, the town council part funded two electric bikes for use by our Bradley Stoke police beat team in the hope that this would make the local police more visible, but these do not appear to be used regularly.”

The letter also says councillors are “very disappointed” that they have not been kept up to date on the police officer post which the town council part-funds, following the departure of the previous post holder, PC Claire Fletcher, at the end of October 2022.

Official opening of the police beat post at the Willow Brook Centre.
From the archives: PC Claire Fletcher (2nd from right) at the official opening of the police beat post at the Willow Brook Centre in 2011.

Councillors made it clear in their letter to police bosses (sent on 21st November 2022) that they didn’t expect to be sent any further monthly invoices until a new officer is in the role.

Bradley Stoke Town Council currently funds 11 hours per week of a 22-hours-per-week contract for a dedicated police officer within the Bradley Stoke Neighbourhood Team. Funding started in October 2009 and was originally based on 25 hours per week but this was reduced to 22 hours per week in 2011.

The arrangement is understood to be unique within the Avon and Somerset force area, with no other town or parish council directly funding police officer posts. However, some non-government organisations such as UWE and The Mall at Cribbs Causeway are known to make financial contributions to have dedicated police officers based on their respective sites.

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The 2023/24 funding requested is for £19,156 which equates to an increase of £2,702 or 16.42 percent over the 2022/23 figure – well above the 3 percent rise anticipated in the council’s Forward Plan.

In a breakdown provided by the constabulary, the “total full cost” for a police constable (PC) working 40 hours per week, including direct and indirect overheads is given as £87,072. The council’s contribution is calculated as 11/40ths of this amount, minus a 20 percent “abatement”.

The minutes of the Full Council meeting in November 2022 state:

“The office queried the 16.42 percent requested increase and were advised the main increase of costs is from the direct overheads which have risen in line with the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) guidance. As a constabulary these costs had not been increased for over 10 years. This increase now brings them in line with the national levels.”

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Beat team members

The Bradley Stoke police beat team has, for the last few years, consisted of two ‘beat team manager’ PCs (one being the council-funded, part-time officer) and two police community support officers (PCSOs). The current team consists of:

  • PC Nathan Reed
  • PC Claire Fletcher (part-time; left post at end of October 2022)
  • PCSO Adam Ali
  • PCSO Oliver Kirk

Photographs of the team members may be viewed on the beat team’s webpage.

PC Reed has been in post for less than six months. For a period of around two years prior to his appointment, the beat team was often without an active permanent beat team manager due to a “challenging period of staff sickness and injury” (in the words of a police spokesperson).

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Police response

PCC Mark Shelford replied that he is only responsible for budgetary matters, leaving Chief Inspector Dan Forster to reply on behalf of the force (on 5th December 2022).

The chief inspector’s response indicates that PC Reed, who prior to the departure of PC Fletcher had been fully funded by the police, has now switched to take on the role and hours of PC Fletcher, along with the associated town council funding.

“Due to the Bradley Stoke post being partially funded, we have prioritised this over other vacancies in South Gloucestershire, with PC Nathan Reed providing continuity in this role.”

This understanding has been confirmed by the town clerk, who says invoice settlements have now resumed.

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In relation to the now-vacant beat team manager post previously held by PC Reed, the chief inspector wrote:

“Following some internal challenges concerning vacancy management, we are now in a position to start filling beat manager posts across South Gloucestershire, and I hope to recruit a second beat manager for the Bradley Stoke beat to provide additional support and resilience.”

On the alleged lack of police support for community events, the chief inspector wrote:

“I apologise if we have let you down or failed to meet your expectations in respect of supporting community events. We have a new supervisor starting in January, and I would encourage you to make contact with them to discuss any such commitments for 2023. Often it will be the case that officers have to change their shift and/or day off to accommodate such requests, so agreeing any commitment early on is recommended. As a caveat to this, officers do not have the powers to enforce road closures, other than in an emergency. Any planned road closures should be authorised by the local authority, and the event organiser would be responsible for stewarding these. Police personnel should not be relied upon or expected to perform this role. Further, the deployment of officers at community events will always be subject to operational demands, so our attendance is not guaranteed.”

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PC stepping down

A further development that could further unsettle councillors is the news that PC Nathan Reed, currently the sole beat manager for Bradley Stoke, is to “step down from his role”. This is revealed in a council report published ahead of this week’s Full Council meeting:

“We have now been informed that PC Nathan Reed is stepping down from his role as part of the Bradley Stoke Police Beat Team. We are awaiting more details of who is replacing him, but they are due to start in position this week. The new PC will be invited to attend a council meeting in due course to meet councillors and officers.”

More information

Police Officer Funding 2023/24 is on the agenda for the next meeting of Bradley Stoke Town Council on Wednesday (18th January 2023).

See also: Bradley Stoke Police Funding Request for 2023/24 (Officer report produced ahead of the meeting)

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