UPDATE: Police station front offices could be closed "as early as next year" (From Bournemouth Echo)
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Police station front offices under threat and reduced opening hours as Dorset Police look to save £500k
FRONT offices of police stations could begin to be closed as early as next year as police chiefs continue to make savings.
Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner Martyn Underhill said that up to 17 stations front desks across the county are under threat.
He said: “This is how many stations there are with front office counters and I can categorically say that it won’t be all of them.”
The proposal aims to save £500,000 but further savings of £8million will be needed to cope with budget cuts, Chief Constable Debbie Simpson said.
Further decisions about which stations will be affected will not be made until the public consultation period ends in December.
Stations which have custody suites, such as Weymouth, will not be affected.
Mr Underhill added that he sees the closures as an ‘interim measure’.
He said: “My vision is that in three years’ time it will be the norm to have multi-agency hubs shared by police and local authorities.
“By sharing and pooling resources, we will be able to keep the front counters open.”
A survey to measure demand of front office counters showed that some rural stations are visited so rarely it costs £100 per visit, compared to around £20 at the busier stations in Bournemouth, he added.
The research also showed that 77 per cent of people prefer contacting the police by phone.
Reducing staff hours at front desks and closing some counters altogether in 2011, such as the one in Lyme Regis, saved the force just under £1million, said Chief Constable Simpson.
She said: “I understand that some people do want that reassuring presence, but there are different ways we can provide that.
“We will always maintain a policing footprint and police on patrol in every town.
“I would also like to stress that the potential closure of station desks does not mean the closure of the police stations themselves.”
The move will be a ‘significant’ part of overall savings, she added.
“This is the start of some really difficult decisions we will have to make in the future.
“I’m aware of how this does affect the public, and also our staff.”
It is ‘too early’ to know if redundancies will be made, she said, but added that this ‘can’t be ruled out’.
Mr Underhill urged residents to give feedback on the proposals, particularly those living in rural areas.
He said: “I am here to represent the community, and I really do need people’s views on this.”
People can email email@example.com or write to the PCC office at force headquarters in Winfrith.
Dorset Police Federation
THE Dorset Police Federation has already warned against the move.
Chairman Clive Chamberlain has said that the move was a further step away from community policing - and that things would get worse because of Government cuts.
Mr Chamberlain said: “It's another opportunity lost for the public to directly interact with local police and is a direct result of cuts imposed by the Government.
“It is a sad day when you are unable to walk into your local police station, because most will be closed unless you are in a major town and even then they may have limited opening hours.
“I think it is a bad step.”
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