I often reflect on how policing has changed over the years. As I touched on in my column last week about the impact of another 20,000 police officers being recruited across the country, policing has moved on considerably from the days when having a ‘bobby in every village’ was the norm. The same goes for the way we use our buildings.

The policing ‘estate’ was built to meet the needs of 20th century policing, when the police worked in isolation from other partner agencies, before the digital age connected our communities and before modern vehicles made it possible to traverse large sections of the county in minutes.

We need to move with the times and that’s exactly what my Estates Strategy 2017-21, a five-year plan to transform the use of our buildings, was designed to do. Across the county, real progress is being made to modernise our estate and provide better facilities at some of our key hubs such as the refurbishment of Swindon Gablecross to allow the Major Crime Team to move in later this year, the purchase of a modern fit-for-purpose building in Warminster, opening of a new touchdown point Marlborough and the c.£600,000 investment I’m making to redevelop our site at Royal Wootton Bassett, work will begin there shortly

I’ve always been really clear in my view that it is our people that keep our communities safe so we need to be smarter about the way we enable our officers and staff to do their job efficiently and effectively alongside our partners.

Part of that is about giving them the technology they need to maximise the time they can spend working out in the community and not have to keep dashing back and forward to a police station to do basic admin. I’ve invested heavily in providing frontline officers and staff with the tools to do just that– 4G enabled laptops and personal issue mobile phones mean that our staff can work in amongst our communities.

Physical buildings remain important in supporting frontline policing – officers and staff will always need to have places to store their kit, to train, to carry out interviews and to detain offenders in custody.

But when it comes to a place to grab a coffee, do some admin and have a comfort break there are other options available that don’t necessarily require a police owned building. Shared premises with our partners enable better, more joined up approaches to tackling bigger community and safeguarding issues, touchdown points in community spaces can replace smaller, underutilised buildings and, with our modern technology, frontline staff are increasingly able to work from coffee shops and other places that their local communities visit.

Maintaining a policing property portfolio is an expensive business and Wiltshire has for years been one of the lowest funded forces in the country. I’m continuing to lobby the Government to address this but in the meantime I need every penny of public money that I can to go into frontline policing. Think about it this way – would you rather your Council Tax contributions went towards heating a poorly insulated building or fixing leaky roofs or would you rather it went towards keeping drugs, weapons and dangerous offenders off our streets? I know which one I’d choose….