Sussex Police needs to make cuts of £52 million, it said after the comprehensive spending review announcement yesterday.
The force is asking people in Brighton and Hove to help decide where the cuts will come by responding to a consultation.
The force said that it wants to make the cuts while “continuing to protect services to the public” and that the public now had a chance to “help shape the future of local policing”.
The cuts are broadly in line with the savings that the force had been planning through a review called Serving Sussex 2015.
But it said that it faced a tough challenge over the next five years – and it was still waiting to learn the detailed figures from the Home Office.
Chief Constable Martin Richards said: “We know that we are facing tough times but we are determined to protect the services we provide to the public.
“We have to be prepared to think differently about how we police Sussex and it is vitally important that we get the public’s views on any changes.
“We will continue to put the public’s needs at the heart of policing in Sussex.
“Throughout the Serving Sussex 2015 programme we will be focusing our consultation on what matters most to local people.
“One of the most important things – and the first subject on which we are seeking views – is about how people can contact us.
“I am keen to get direct feedback from the community and this will be vital to our decision making.”
The force’s budget and proposed spending cuts will be discussed at a meeting of the Sussex Police Authority next Thursday (28 October).
The authority – which holds the force to account through councillors and other members – has published an online update today.
Sussex Police said that over the coming months there will be a range of opportunities for local people to have their say.
People are being asked to sign up on the Sussex Police website if they want to take part.
As well as being asked about how they would like to contact the police, they are also being asked what sort of things they would like to be able to do online.
The force wants to enable people to do more things online and already encourages online reporting of certain crimes.
However, it said that it recognised the importance of continuing to provide ways to make contact over the phone and in person.
The first stage of consultation asks local people for the sorts of things they would like to do online.
For example, some might want to use the internet to report minor crime, suspicious behaviour and lost property, find information about local crime levels and make appointments with officers.
The force also wants to know what people definitely would not want to use the internet for.
Police stations may close
A review of police stations is also under way.
Sussex Police has pledged to return policing to the heart of local communities, but at the same time save costs, perhaps by closing larger less accessible locations.
The force is considering new ways for the public to contact their local police.
Ideas include drop-in sessions in libraries or shopping centres, a joint counter with other public agencies or local businesses, or using the internet to make appointments to meet directly with local officers.
Mr Richards said: “Many of our police stations are expensive to run and in inconvenient locations for the public.
“We have to be prepared to think differently in these tough times.
“If we save money on inefficient buildings or those in inconvenient places we will have fewer savings to find in other areas.
“So we may find different ways for the public to get in touch with us, for example, by having regular drop-in sessions at community facilities, making more use of appointments or putting police contact points in local council buildings or even a local business.
“If we do decide to close a building that currently has a front office facility then we will not do so without making sure that the local community has something else in its place that is as good as or better than that provided by the police station.
“People should also not assume that this means smaller locations will lose out.
“We know how important it is for the community to have a police presence in their neighbourhoods, particularly in rural areas.
“One of the considerations is to reduce the number of our most expensive larger sites so we can protect or improve local contact.
“This may mean combining larger out-of-town locations for some policing functions, while providing a greater number of smaller more accessible locations for local policing.”
People who want to provide feedback on these initial areas or who would like to register to be involved in future consultation can do so by clicking here.
Surveys asking the same questions will also be distributed by neighbourhood policing teams and events will be held in local areas by officers and Sussex Police Authority members.
Sussex Police Authority chairman Dr Laurie Bush said: “The police authority provides a vital role in scrutinising the work of Sussex Police and at no time is this more important than during the consideration of these significant changes that will shape local policing for years to come.
“We strongly welcome the force launching wider consultation around the proposals.
“Members of the authority already seek and represent the views of local people and look forward to opportunities to take part in the consultation events.
“I am confident that the Serving Sussex 2015 plans are progressing as expected and anticipate interesting debate around the considerations at next week’s meeting.”
The police authority meeting takes place at Sackville House, Brooks Close, Lewes, next Thursday (28 October) from 2pm.
The meeting is open to the public and can also be seen online by clicking here.
The agenda for the meeting can be seen by clicking here.
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