THE return of neighbourhood policing across Barnsley has been hailed as a key reason why South Yorkshire Police performed better than any other force in a residents’ confidence survey, bosses have claimed.

South Yorkshire Police axed its former Safer Neighbourhood Team structure in a bid to slash £8.1m from the budget in 2015 - a widely criticised decision which saw bobbies being taken out of the communities they knew and moved to Wombwell.

But a U-turn was performed following the backlash and an initial four hubs - in Barnsley town centre, Goldthorpe, Kendray and Royston - began operating in 2017, joined by officers based at Cudworth and Penistone in 2018 and Hoyland earlier this year.

Figures show that 67.5 per cent of respondents who took part in the police survey said they had increased confidence in South Yorkshire Police, the highest in the country.

South Yorkshire Police’s Chief Constable Stephen Watson shared the news at last week’s public accountability board meeting.

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“Of the 26 forces reported on, South Yorkshire is at the very top and in the last 12 months, there has been a 67.5 per cent increase in the number of people who said the confidence in the police had increased,” Chf Con Watson said.

“This is a huge pat on the back, predominantly for our neighbourhood policing teams in Barnsley which has been used as the pilot, but actually for everybody else in the force because this ultimately is the lifeblood of policing.

“We don’t want to become complacent about and we will continue to try and do more to keep this going.”

According to bosses, the increase in neighbourhood teams across Barnsley is part of the ‘force’s journey to deliver outstanding neighbourhood policing’.

With additional officers working at core times with a ‘proactive preventative approach’, bosses hope to see a reduction in crime and deliver a higher level of service to communities, tackling long-standing issues such as burglary and antisocial behaviour.

Chief Superintendent Sarah Poolman, Barnsley’s district commander, told the Chronicle: “The town’s policing is in a really positive position and the reopening of stations are the final stepping stones.

“The picture is positive across the board in the borough as there’s been investment, and this year represents a continuation of that. We’re aligning our services alongside Barnsley Council and the work residents will see will be done in partnership.”

Dr Alan Billings, South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, added: “The government’s accepted that there was a link between falling police numbers and rising crime, especially house burglaries and crimes associated with gangs and drugs.

“Two things are now starting to happen as a result. First, more police officers means that more places will have to be found for them to be based.

“In some parts of the county this could mean we look again at existing police buildings that may have been closed. To take one example in the Barnsley district, we will again be using the police station in Hoyland for uniformed officers.

“More police will also mean more officers for neighbourhood teams. These valuable teams were another casualty of the cuts, but they are being restored with both PCSOs - who were often all that remained of neighbourhood policing - and officers with the power of arrest.”