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Police and crime commissioner confirms ‘significant improvement’ in clearing Kent firearms license backlog after controversial £39,000 investment

PUBLISHED: 13:41 06 March 2017 | UPDATED: 13:41 06 March 2017

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Matthew Scott’s predecessor, Ann Barnes, said it was a “hobby subsidy”

A controversial £39,000 investment made to help clear a backlog of firearms licenses has proved positive, Kent’s police and crime commissioner has said.

Matthew Scott requested an update on the turnaround times at his most recent Governance Board meeting, the principle way he holds the chief constable to account in public and was told the force has significantly cut the time it takes to issue licenses and process renewals.

“When I arrived there was an issue about the length of time it was taking for renewals, and for grants of new certificates,” Mr Scott said.

“We acknowledge the legitimate concerns of people just trying to register a firearm with us to comply with what are, quite rightly, strict gun laws.

“The fact that people were having to wait was unfair on them.”

Kent has more than 25,000 firearms licence holders who must apply for a renewal every five years.

After receiving complaints about the time Kent Police was taking taken to process applications, Mr Scott released £39,000 in May 2016 for an additional member of staff in the Firearms Licensing Team to improve the situation.

It represented a significant change in policy to his predecessor, Ann Barnes, who last year hit out at the level of spending by the forces on firearms licences.

In 2015, firearms cost Kent Police some £338,556, causing Mrs Barnes to slam the spending, describing it as a “hobby subsidy”.

The force told the Governance Board the funding had helped provide a member of staff on a 12 month temporary contract which has been dedicated to the process.

Deputy chief constable Paul Brandon told the meeting: “We have a target of June 2017 to get us back on level terms.

“For grants, between July 2015 and January 2016, the average turnaround time was 176 days.

“In the last six months of 2016 that’s now been reduced to an average turnaround of 50 days so that really is a significant improvement.”

Mr Scott added: “The number of complaints I’ve received recently has fallen which is an encouraging sign.

“Very well done to the team for turning it around under a lot of pressure.

“The fact Kent Police is being recognised nationally in this area is really positive to see.”

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