Police and Crime Commissioner John Campion has voiced significant concerns about the declining efficiency of the Firearms Licensing Unit (FLU) under West Mercia Police. Despite increasing the unit's funding by £200,000, backlogs continue to grow, compromising public safety and frustrating the community.
John Campion's concerns arise after the average waiting time for issuing firearms and shotgun licences extended to 230 and 251 days, respectively. Even after a £200,000 investment in March, the unit's performance has not improved. In fact, the backlog for shotgun renewal applications has swelled by 24 per cent since May, now exceeding 600 pending requests. This is part of an 8 per cent overall increase in backlogged demand during the same period.
John Campion said: "Lawful firearms are part of the rural way of life and its economy. I have heard frequently from residents, business owners, MPs and councillors about the current unacceptable delays. I share West Mercia Police’s uncompromising focus on public safety, but the FLU’s overall performance must improve. After investing an additional £200,000 into the unit, I want the public to feel the benefits of my investment. While I am willing to make more resources available to speed up change, I have called on the Chief Constable to set out a clear plan over the next few weeks to address concerns and reassure me that performance improvements will be delivered swiftly."
West Mercia holds the highest volume of firearms licences in the country. Although public safety remains a priority, the growing backlog indicates that the FLU is failing to meet community expectations. Chief Constable Pippa Mills has been called upon to provide a clear plan for rapid improvements in the unit's performance.
Sam Walker, Regional Officer for The British Association for Shooting and Conservation, also weighed in on the issue: "This has become a frustrating situation, with many of our members now suffering long delays but we welcome the investment and commitment made by the PCC in attempt to rectify the situation."
John Campion is currently awaiting a detailed plan from Chief Constable Pippa Mills that will address these issues and assure that the FLU will be fit for purpose in the near future.