Specials and sponsorship considered to save force’s threatened mounted section

Budget cuts could lead to volunteers joining a force’s mounted section as the unit’s future hangs in the balance.

Feb 19, 2018
By Kevin Hearty

Thames Valley Police Chief Constable Francis Habgood was able to give “no promises” over the Mounted Section’s continued existence after meeting with officers last week.

The unit, which covers Thames Valley and Hampshire, is threatened by a £4 million budget shortfall over the next year.

The force is now considering other options to make the mounted section sustainable, including adding special constables to its ranks or opening it up to outside sponsorship.

Police and crime commissioner Anthony Stansfeld claimed the plans could have a “fundamental impact” on frontline policing.

Mr Habgood said: “I know that the Mounted Section has a wide following, both on social media and when the officers and horses are out and about. I know that they are grateful for that support, as am I.

“I have made no promises about the Mounted Section in the future as with the uncertainty about future budgets that would be reckless, but I can assure everybody that I am working with the team to ensure that any decision is made using the best evidence around their contribution to policing in Thames Valley.”

Budget forecasts conducted last December earmarked the Mounted Section for closure by June 2019.

Thames Valley Police needs to find around £15 million over the next three years and has already saved £99 million since 2010.

Mr Stansfeld’s decision to raise council tax by £12 a year eased some of this pressure and removed the need for immediate decisions about the future of the unit.

Over the next few months, mounted officers will collate additional data regarding their deployments and the income they generate from other forces.

The unit will meet with Mr Habgood again in October to discuss its future options.

Mr Stansfeld said: “We have now reached the stage that any further cuts would have a fundamental impact on the front line.

“Before I made a decision on the level of council tax I sought the views of residents in the Thames Valley and out of 5,600 people surveyed nearly 85 per cent agreed to an increase in council tax to fund policing.”

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