Page last updated at 14:23 GMT, Monday, 20 July 2009 15:23 UK

Budget cap costs river police job

Police jacket (generic)
River specialist officer Pc Jim Halstead has been redeployed

A group of MPs have asked Surrey's Chief Constable to rethink cutting police cover on the River Thames.

They say that it means the Thames in Surrey will no longer have a police officer dedicated to the safety and security of the river.

Instead, cover will be provided by 16 neighbourhood policing teams.

Surrey Police said the River Specialist Officer's post was being axed as a result of the government's decision to cap the force budget.

The officer, Pc Jim Halstead, has been redeployed to the Elmbridge Safer Neighbourhood Team.

Philip Hammond, MP for Runnymede & Weybridge, said officers whose primary job was on land were not ideal for dealing with water-related incidents.

This decision does not mean a reduction in the force's commitment to continuing to police the river
Supt Rachel Tills

He and two other Surrey MPs have written to Chief Constable Mark Rowley asking for a rethink.

"It is not just safety - there is also a significant crime issue around the economic activity along the river," he said.

"There is lots of boat-related economic activity and there are historically significant amounts of crime related to this area.

"We are concerned that we are going to have situations were officers are standing on the bank staring at problems - unable to intervene," he said.

Surrey Police Authority has said the budget cap will cost 50 frontline jobs.

The High Court refused permission for a judicial review of the cap on Friday.

Supt Rachel Tills said the decision to cut the specialist river post had not been taken lightly.

"This decision does not mean a reduction in the force's commitment to continuing to police the river."

She said the force would be meeting the Environment Agency and hoped to maintain the current police hours on the river.

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