POLICE could splash out £67m on four new custody centres, The News can reveal.
Hampshire Constabulary is considering cutting its custody suites from 14 to six.
The move would mean building four new centres in Fareham, Hook, Newport on the Isle of Wight and Winchester.
It would cost the Hampshire Constabulary an estimated £67m over 30 years if a recommendation to tender for a contractor to design and build the new centres is approved.
But it would also increase the cell numbers by 45 to 191 – and ultimately save cash.
Adrian Collett, Hampshire Police Authority finance committee chairman, said: ‘When the authority reviewed the estates strategy back in June we identified without any doubt that we need to improve the custody facilities across Hampshire Constabulary, in that it appears to make a lot of sense to have a smaller number of custody suites which are larger.
‘It means we can be more efficient but also provide proper management facilities.’
The final decision lies with the police authority, which holds the force’s purse-strings. Members will also consider an option to lease the new centres from the private sector at an estimated cost of £86m.
However finance committee officials are urged to choose the cheaper design and build option and recommend it for full approval at a later date.
Increasing the number of cells to the 191 needed within the force’s current estate would cost an extra £12.7m a year in staffing. But experts say the cells could be run in six new centres for £9.2m a year.
Thirty-six cells at Portsmouth Central police station and a 36-cell custody centre at the new Southampton Central police station would stay open.
The move comes as Hampshire Constabulary battles to save £50m by 2015 due to government spending cuts.
Assistant chief constable David Pryde said: ‘This is an initiative driven by the need to save money and modernise our facilities to comply with standards and ensure the safety of our detained persons. It will also make us more efficient in processing these persons and ensuring they are held to account for any wrongdoing, by the courts.’
Police authority finance committee members will discuss plans at their Winchester headquarters on Monday.