Volunteer plan for Devon and Cornwall police front desk

PCC Tony Hogg
Image caption PCC Tony Hogg said it was a "serious challenge holding onto" the current number of police officers

Unpaid volunteers could be used on Devon and Cornwall Police closed front desks to cut costs says Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Tony Hogg.

He said a "cultural shift" to volunteers is needed to help the force with budget cuts.

The force plans to cut £51m from its £285m budget by 2015, but Mr Hogg said future cuts could be imposed in 2016/17.

The Police Federation said extra funding could be at risk.

Speaking to BBC Radio Cornwall Tony Hogg said: "We're not going to have more police officers, we need a cultural shift to the public playing their part in policing more and more.

"I would love to see closed front counters being manned by volunteers if necessary.

"That's controversial with the police and the federation, but it's something I think we need to move towards."

He said he also needed the police to "recognise that it isn't policing on the cheap to include volunteering more".

'Wrong message' to government

Sgt Nigel Rabbitts, chairman of the Devon and Cornwall Police Federation, said: "In general, volunteering is policing on the cheap.

"If we're looking to professionalise the service there is a conflict with filling the gaps with volunteers... even though they are doing the roles with good intention."

Sgt Rabbitts claimed it "sent the wrong message" to central government who would "say we don't need extra money".

Mr Hogg said over the next three years it was a "serious challenge holding onto" the current number of police officers.

In June, the force said it had saved more than £18m over the past three years, made 300 redundancies and closed a number of police stations.

The number of police officers has fallen from 3,500 in March 2010 to 3,127 in July 2013.

Mr Hogg's role is to oversee chief constables and forces' budgets.

There are 41 PCCs in place in all areas of England and Wales except London, where the equivalent job is done by elected mayor Boris Johnson.

Influenced by systems in place in parts of the US, their largest tasks are to hire and fire chief constables and hold them to account for forces' performances.

They also oversee community safety and set out budgets, reporting annually on progress.

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