Hampshire police station front desks to shut as force battles to save cash

DECISION Assistant Chief Constable Laura Nicholson
DECISION Assistant Chief Constable Laura Nicholson
Police car. Pitcure: Jon Rigby

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ALMOST two-thirds of police front desks open to the public are to shut in a cost-cutting bid.

Of the 11 stations in our area three – Southsea, Hayling Island and Petersfield – are already earmarked for complete closure.

Now four more front desks are to close at Fratton, Cosham, Waterlooville and Park Gate as Hampshire Constabulary battles to save up to £50m by 2015.

In Portsmouth there will be just one front desk open to the public – at Portsmouth Central police station in Winston Churchill Avenue.

But its hours are being slashed to 8am to 10pm seven days a week – meaning there will no station in the city where people can report crime 24 hours a day when the axe falls next March.

The move, which follows a public consultation, means there will be just one police station front desk in Fareham, Portsmouth, Havant and Gosport.

John Apter, Hampshire Police Federation chairman, said: ‘This is the reality of disproportionate 20 per cuts to the police budget. The Chief Constable has to find £50m of savings. It’s sad for officers, staff and importantly, the public. Once these stations and front desks have gone, they are gone forever.’

Superintendent Norman Mellors, in charge of policing in Portsmouth, said: ‘We could either spend our money on keeping 24-hour front office provision, even when research has shown that there is very little demand between 10pm and 8am, or we can spend our money on maintaining police officer numbers and working to ensure that the impact on front line policing is minimal. I believe the public would prefer to know that money is being spent to ensure that police officers are available when they need one rather than maintaining a 24 hour service that they are unlikely to ever need or use.

‘Portsmouth Central is our main custody centre for the area and provision is always in place to ensure that the station is accessible to solicitors, appropriate adults, and to accept and release detained persons. That will remain the same. I would like to reassure the public that we remain committed to maintaining an effective and visible presence across the city, 24 hours a day.’

Assistant Chief Constable Laura Nicholson said: ‘We believe that we will emerge from this period of transition as a stronger force, focused on what really matters to the public.’

Hampshire Police Authority, which holds the force’s purse strings, will sell some buildings. And no station will shut until each Safer Neighbourhoods Team has another base to work from. Meanwhile the force says victims will be able to report crime online by next year.