New Hampshire custody centres are closer to reality

Bob Higgins at an earlier court hearing  Picture Habibur Rahman/Solent News

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FINANCE officials have backed plans to build four multi-million pound custody centres in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.

Members of the committee at Hampshire Police Authority – which holds the purse strings for the police force – agreed to recommend the move for full approval.

The plan, which means building four new centres in Fareham, Hook, Newport on the Isle of Wight and Winchester, will now go to the full police authority for a final decision later this month.

The move would cost Hampshire Constabulary an estimated £67m over 30 years.

Committee members opted against a plan to lease the centres back from the private sector, which would

cost £86m.

The favoured plan would increase the current number of cells on the patch by 45 to 191.

Committee member Michael Knott said yesterday: ‘It looks pretty open and shut.’

Fellow member, councillor Mel Kendall, said: ‘The cash flow indicates quite clearly that purchasing a property and running it is going to be cheaper than leasing it. ‘I think that it’s a no brainer.’

If the plan goes ahead, police would keep 36 cells at Portsmouth Central police station and a 36-cell custody centre at the recently opened Southampton Central police station open.

Experts say running cells in the six centres – including the four new builds – would cost about £9.2m a year.

This is compared to an extra £12.7m annual staffing bill if the extra cells needed were added in to the force’s current estate.

The move comes as Hampshire Constabulary battles to save £50m by 2015 due to the government’s spending squeeze.

So far the force is on course to underspend by £8.309m by April next year. Steps taken to save cash include cutting civilian staff and merging services with neighbouring forces.

A decision is to be made at a full Hampshire Police Authority meeting on September 27.