This past year has seen the Thames Valley Police Firearms Licensing Department come under heavy criticism for providing the shooting community with an unsatisfactory licensing service. In 2016 backlogs and delays reached record highs, which subsequently had a negative knock-on effect on livelihoods and hobbies. After a number of stakeholder meetings and a commitment to improve the service from the Thames Valley Police and Crime Commissioner, Anthony Stansfeld, the Countryside Alliance felt it was right to update members in the area on progress with a Q&A.
How many people do the Thames Valley Police Firearms Licensing Department employ, and how many shotgun and firearm certificates are they responsible for?
The Firearms Licensing Department employs the following members of staff:
- 1 x Firearms Licensing Manager
- 3 x Senior Firearms Enquiry Officers
- 4 x Firearms Licensing Officers (3 full time & 1 part time)
- 9 x Firearms Licensing Administrators (7 full time & 2 part time)
- 9 x Firearms Enquiry Officers
The total number of certificates on issue in the Thames Valley area is 31,537
How would you rate the service that has been provided by Thames Valley Police Firearms Licensing Department over the past few years?
The below chart shows the performance of the Thames Valley Police Firearms Licensing Department. As you can see since 2010 the department has provided the shooting community with a good standard of service, up until 2016. Due to factors outside of our control; staff absences, reductions in staffing due to austerity measures, a major flood and IT difficulties, our turnaround times have exceeded our service level agreement.
Our current figures show that our performance is improving in line with the targets detailed in the department action plan.
What improvements to the Thames Valley Police licensing system are planned for 2017, and what targets have been set?
An action plan has been put in place can be found on the force website. The first target, which has now been accomplished, is to achieve under 100 days by the end of April 2017. The second target is to achieve 60 days by the end of July 2017.
What role do you see shooting organisations, such as the Countryside Alliance, playing in the licensing system?
Assistant Chief Constable Jason Hogg has made it clear that shooting organisations, who are represented at the Thames Valley Police Strategic Shooting Organisation meeting, should act as an advisory group with 3 main objectives:
- Provide feedback to the Police from the shooting community – Is the system working and are the police providing an effective service?
- Develop ideas of how we can make our processes work more effectively
- Be a ‘critical friend’ for Thames Valley Police – helping identifying problems or issues which the police may not be aware of and act as advocates for the people that the attending organisations represent and for Thames Valley Police
How could Countryside Alliance members in the Thames Valley Police area help speed up the licensing process for their renewals?
It is vital that Countryside Alliance members submit their fully completed applications [no errors] in good time. Any errors in applications results in them being returned to the applicant. At present, the Firearms Licensing Department is returning approximately 60% of applications as they have not been completed correctly. The TVP website now provides a useful page on tips for submitting your application/renewal correctly.
As a certificate holder, are there any particular improvements to the licensing system you would like to see changed within this Government?
The legislation surrounding Firearms is very complex and any recommendations to amend legislation or the Home Office Guidance are made in consultation with ACPO, FELWG and the Home Office. However, the key issue is to make the present licensing system work effectively with Thames Valley Police. Progress is now being made and I feel confident that Thames Valley Police are taking the necessary steps to provide a licensing system that is efficient and effective for your members.
With eyes on improving their service the Thames Valley Police have updated their website with information on turnaround times, latest minutes of stakeholder meetings and action plans.