By Local Democracy Reporter
NEW police officers funded by Thurrock Council are to begin working in the borough by January 2020, a councillor has confirmed.
Councillor James Halden has promised the new police officers funded using £1million of council money will begin walking the beat in Purfleet and Tilbury by January 2020.
His assurances came after Labour leader Councillor Jane Pothecary questioned at a full council meeting last week why it had been almost a year since the council made the funding promise with little results.
She said: “The council’s funding of these officers was very much trumpeted, there were lots of press releases, there were lots of photos of council leader Councillor Rob Gledhill in the high street surrounded by people in uniforms – we had all of that and residents felt it was a very firm promise and I thought it was a firm promise, yet they are not there yet.”
Mr Halden responded: “If you want a straight answer let me give you one. We’ve got brand new town centre police teams in Grays, in Ockendon, in Stanford and now thanks to the investment from Thurrock Council there will be brand new dedicated officers for Purfleet and Tilbury in January next year.
“There will be 3,200 officers in total in Essex by 2020.”
Hitting back at claims that it had take too long to get the officers on the streets, Mr Halden insisted it was due to the length of time they have been in training.
“It did take a little bit of time,” he continued.
“Obviously we wanted to invest more in policing and of course when you put police officers on the street you do have to train them. So yes, it does take a little bit of time to roll them out.”
He added that the council’s strong financial position means that they have the “clout to wield some influence with the police”.
The council announced the £1million investment in January, with the funds being spent over a three-year period. It is expected to fund eight new officers who will work from the council offices.
They will also be in addition to the 15 new officers Essex Police committed to sending to Thurrock as part of the increase in council tax in 2018-19.
Following the announcement the plan was criticised by members of Labour who accused the Conservative party of cutting police across the country and later shifting the cost of replenishing the numbers onto taxpayers.
A council report published at the beginning of October revealed that offences involving violence against a person have almost doubled in a year. While other crimes, including sexual offences, robbery with violence, theft and criminal damage are also up.
Labour Councillor John Kent placed the blame for these increases on the “lack of investment in proper policing”.
But Essex Police have said “Thurrock and Essex remain safe places to live and work” and stressed that in the 12 months to the end of March 2019, the number of violence with injury offences per 1,000 people was lower in Thurrock than the national average.