Essex police force has made significant changes to its licensing system, including the introduction of a postal renewal service, in a bid to reduce the time that is taken to process firearms licence applications and renewals.

The changes come as a meeting was held this week, chaired by Essex Deputy Chief Constable Matt Horne and attended by BASC, the National Farmers’ Union and the Countryside Alliance, to discuss a rise in complaints about the force’s performance.

Gary Ashton, BASC’s director of firearms operations, said: “The delays experienced by certificate holders in Essex have been unacceptable and this was acknowledged by DCC Horne.

“I am satisfied that Essex Police understands the frustration amongst certificate holders and the impact it has on people’s legitimate business interests and they are now putting in place more proportionate processes to improve their turnaround times.”

DCC Horne said: “We have taken on board some of the helpful suggestions, and best practice from forces around the country. I am confident that we will see an improvement which balances the rights of people to lawfully possess guns with the need to ensure the safety of all.”

In September 2015, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary issued a highly critical report following the inspection of 11 forces. It found that, among other things, seven of the forces inspected experienced backlogs with renewal applications and that four of the 11 forces had ineffective monitoring and audit arrangements in place. In some cases this had resulted in some gun owners being illegally allowed to keep using their guns.

HM Inspector of Constabulary Stephen Otter, who led the inspection, said at the time that forces are “sometimes inexcusably compromising public safety” by failing to follow government guidance.

BASC has pledged to continue to work with Essex Police and will be monitoring its progress before meeting with the force again later in the year.