PLANS to close some police enquiry offices in rural Dorset and reduce hours at other sites have been put on hold, it was announced today.
The decision by Dorset Police comes after feedback from communities.
No changes to counter service provision will be made until at least September 2015, the force and Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner Martyn Underhill said.
Mr Underhill said a commitment was made when consultation began last November to ‘carefully consider views.’ He added: “From the wide range of alternative suggestions and the strength of feeling that we have encountered, it is clear that the force and I need more time to take on board the information we have received.
“There is more work to be done before final decisions can be made and it’s important that this work isn’t hurried.”
The initial review of station desk enquiry offices had identified that they were an expensive and under-utilised resource. Figures show that one enquiry office in Dorset welcomed an average of just 5.2 visitors per day in 2012, despite being open seven hours a day, five days a week. At some stations, only a small proportion of visits related to policing matters.
The proposals could save in the region of £500,000 – the equivalent of 10 front line officers or 17 Police Community Support Officers.
In response to public feedback last year, it was announced that Dorset Police would seek to retain a front counter provision in Bournemouth, Weymouth and North Dorset and that joint agency initiatives would be explored.
Chief Constable Debbie Simpson said: “I can reassure members of the public that no final decisions have been made regarding station desk office provision in Dorset.
“We are aware that one single approach may not suit all parts of the county and different solutions may be required in different areas. As this detail becomes clear, there will be further opportunities for communities to provide the force and the PCC with their views and ideas for alternative ways to contact Dorset Police.
“However, Dorset Police is the fourth lowest spending force in England and Wales and is faced with a very challenging budgetary situation, so difficult choices will need to be made.
“We are committed to providing the best possible service while reflecting true demand and value for money.”
She said the force continues to ensure that there is a ‘policing footprint’ in every town and that suitable provisions are in place before to any enquiry office closure.
A change to counter service provision in a town does not equate to the closure of the town’s police station.
Recent surveys indicate that three-quarters of the public prefer to contact Dorset Police by telephone and improvements have already been made to the 101 non-emergency service. Work to improve Dorset Police’s online services is also underway.
Mr Underhill said: “I’d like to thank everyone who has contributed to the engagement process. Additional project work will now take place and I hope to provide a further update later this year.”