Plan to merge Suffolk and Norfolk control rooms criticised

Suffolk Police headquarters, by Oxymoron via Geograph Suffolk Police said 134 people work at the control room in Martlesham

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A proposal to merge Suffolk and Norfolk's police control rooms will put people's lives at risk, a union has claimed.

Suffolk and Norfolk Police want to close the control room in Suffolk and move all staff who deal with calls to an expanded centre in Norfolk.

The forces say they are under pressure to cut costs and the combined control complex could save about £1.8m a year.

But Unison has called the merger plan a "step too far".

The two forces began sharing services including human resources and communications in 2011.

Gavin, a former control room worker in Suffolk, on BBC Radio Suffolk

"It's a recipe for absolute disaster - local knowledge is absolutely paramount.

"I appreciate we have ways of tracing phone calls these days but the person taking that call has got to log that incident in such a way that the dispatcher has got to make sense of the location as well - so you have two links in a chain that have got to be the strongest links.

"It's the second most stressful job behind air traffic control. Do you really want a 50 mile drive after 10 hours of being stressed out by 999 calls?"

Support services including HR, finance and procurement would probably be based in Suffolk, with a projected saving of £2.5m a year, the forces said.

'Lives at risk'

Both proposals will now go to the counties' police and crime commissioners on Thursday.

Mark Trask, Suffolk Police Unison branch secretary, said dealing with Suffolk emergencies from Norfolk would put people's lives at risk.

"If the calls aren't answered efficiently, the police don't arrive," he said.

He added that a commute to Norfolk would be "impractical and too cost prohibitive" for the majority of staff.

Suffolk Police said 134 people work at the control room, which is based at its Martlesham headquarters.

Norfolk Police, whose revenue budget for 2013/14 is £150m, needs to save £20.3m by 2018, while for Suffolk Police, whose budget is about £120m, the figure is £16.4m.

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