Firstly, I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a very happy, healthy and peaceful new year.
I have no doubts that 2016 is set to be another challenging year, not just for Wiltshire Police, but for policing in general. However, I know that my team of talented officers, staff and volunteers will continue to rise to the challenges.
A new year can often signal a time for change and I continue to be of the firm belief that collaboration, partnership and moving towards potential operational mergers is the best and only way forward. It is essential that we modernise the policing structures to enable us to respond to changes in criminal activity as well as deliver efficiency and protect the roles of frontline officers and staff, which is the bedrock for delivering a high quality service that the public deserve. One of my main aspirations is for public services in Wiltshire to work in a more integrated way so that we maximise our efficiencies locally to deliver a more joined up and seamless service.
Austerity continues to bite, but it is important not to focus entirely on the difficulties it poses, but the opportunities it provides us with to reduce bureaucracy within the Force, improve leadership, maximise technology and improve our efficiency. We have already transformed the force but we still have more work to do. I want to underpin our public service delivery upon a model of private sector principles. I have repeatedly said to my managers that my aspiration is to deliver a world class service much in the same way as many of the best in the commercial world. There is no reason why the public sector should not have these types of ambition, I certainly do for policing.
In order to create greater regional resilience and protect local policing, I believe a strategic alliance with Avon & Somerset Constabulary would be the most exciting and effective option moving forward. I look forward to the arrival of the new Chief Constable for Avon and Somerset, Andy Marsh. I have known him since we were sergeants together in Frome in the early nineties and I am sure we will share the same level of ambition and approach in protecting local policing in all the counties we have responsibility for.
Both Avon & Somerset and Wiltshire are recognised as being successful Forces in their own right and are already involved in the successful regional delivery of many services including Tri-Force operations, major crime investigation, organised crime and counter terrorism.
Future funding shortfalls, albeit now less than anticipated following the announcement of the Comprehensive Spending Review, will extend austerity well into 2016/17 and beyond. I am under no illusions that a strategic alliance would be challenging. However, the current geographical boundaries constrain efficiency and effectiveness. Improving our ability to run the business of policing across the whole country will enable all forces to protect, or indeed invest, in neighbourhood policing which is at the heart of the Commissioners approach, as laid out in his Police and Crime Plan.
Looking even further ahead, a strategic alliance with our neighbouring Force may not be enough given the financial savings which we will no doubt have to continue to make, and it is my view, that the introduction of a more cohesive regional approach in the south-west would be a very realistic option within the next five to 10 years. This would see the amalgamation of all police forces in the region working together to provide a new, transformed, efficient service to the public. It is an outdated idea to suggest that the 43 police forces in England and Wales should remain. Although this is something I do not expect to be introduced for several years, it is an option that I definitely support to protect local policing, and combat the emerging threats and changing profile of criminality.