The town’s new police sergeant is confident that Wellington’s policing will remain effective despite him being based in Williton rather than Wellington. And he’s optimistic that the town will continue to have a police station.
Sergeant Nigel Downey has recently been appointed Neighbourhood Sergeant for Somerset West to cover Wellington, Minehead and Williton, based in Williton. He will work alongside Paul Chamberlaine whose role is to co-ordinate the work of the regional team. Former Wellington and Rockwell Green Sergeant Sergeant Helen Boyd was reassigned within the force in December.
Asked about the consequences of these changes Sergeant Downey said, “Our goals are similar to those of the previous Sergeant, certainly as regards social behaviour and crime but while she was in Wellington three days a week, I will try to be here as much as I can.”
In accepting that the reorganisation will affect the amount of time he will be able to be present in Wellington, he said, “I won’t be here all the time but I’m still available. If there is more of a need for me to be here than elsewhere then I’ll be here. I don’t need to be physically in any one place to make sure that the work gets done. What I really want to do is try to reassure people in Wellington that just because I’m not physically here doesn’t mean I’m ignoring this town. Every single day I’ll be monitoring the issues happening across the area.”
“We do have Paul here and he and I work together in many respects and form part of the Wellington One Team. For people who are concerned that there is less coverage and less attention being paid to the town, it is not really the case. What we’ve actually got now is two of us working here with slightly different roles but with similar goals. I work predominantly in Williton but cover the whole area, maintaining contact with staff who are here every day.”
In an extensive interview Nigel admitted that it was “taking a little bit of time to find out what’s what in Wellington.” He has worked around the region from Cheddar to Minehead and down to Taunton but admits that “this area is new to me – as it is to Paul. We have, though, come in with some fresh ideas and are getting to know the staff and about local issues. We’re still trying to make contacts in the town and perhaps it’s a little slower than we would have liked but we’ll get there and once we’ve got our working patterns in place – which we’re working through now – I think there should be some benefits to Wellington.” Sergeant Downey is meeting Town Clerk Greg Dyke next week.
Outlining the changes to policing across the region, Nigel said, “We’re going through a period of massive change, implementing it bit by bit in advance of the ‘go-line date‘ at the end of March. We’re going to have 5 neighbourhood sergeants across our policing area and all the staff will be split into 5 different teams working completely different shifts and supervised by those sergeants. It’s my responsibility to line-manage the staff who work here to ensure they are meeting the needs of the community.”
The reorganisation is, as Nigel Downing admits, due to budget cuts: “We have to change the way we work to accommodate that,” he said. “But there is no doubt in my mind that the organisation was probably a little bit blunted. There were cuts to be made. Maybe they’re going too far but they’ve been demanded and so we’ve got to produce working practices that are more efficient.
“That’s the reality. Over a 7 or 8 year period we’re having to reduce the Avon and Somerset Constabulary by something like a fifth which is an enormous reduction. We can’t do that without changes in the way we work. These changes have been 2 years in the making. We’ve studied demand, how many police officers there are in each area, how many calls are made, the community problems in different areas and staffing is being set according to that.”
Given the inevitable concern about possible cuts to the station’s opening hours he acknowledged that the issue had been looked at but said that he thought the hours would remain the same as at present. “We’re trying to get to the public in other ways,” he said, “using Twitter, Facebook and the internet as much as humanly possible. To some people this may not be good news because they’re modern systems and many people want to come into a police station. We understand that and so we’re trying to cover many things in the best way we can. We have to reduce our building assets but are determined to maintain the police presence in places where the stations actually close.”
“There are no plans to shut Wellington Police Station and I’d be surprised if that happened. If it’s not in this building then we’ll have somewhere from which to work in Wellington, I’m confident of that. I don’t see us going to Taunton as many fear. There will be a police presence in the town, if not here.”