Police front desks under threat in latest raft of cuts

Some police station front counters could be closed
Some police station front counters could be closed

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THE number of police front desks open to the public could more than halve under cost-cutting plans, The News can reveal.

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

Now the front desks at the other eight are under review as Hampshire Constabulary battles to save £50m by 2015.

Police say no decisions have been made and there will be at least one front office per police district.

That means there could end up being just one in Portsmouth, one for Fareham and Gosport and one for Havant and Waterlooville.

The force also says no person should have to travel more than 20 miles or 30 minutes to reach front office services. In Portsmouth the front desk at Cosham station is understood to be likely to shut.

Front counters at Portsmouth Central station – currently open for enquiries 24 hours a day – and Fratton are also under review, as well as Fareham, Gosport, Park Gate, Havant and Waterlooville.

Senior police officers have admitted the move is not ideal.

Chief Constable Alex Marshall, said at a meeting of Hampshire Police Authority: ‘It would be great to sit here and open up lots of police stations. Unfortunately it’s not the climate in which we find ourselves.’

Superintendent Norman Mellors, who is in charge of policing in Portsmouth, said: ‘A review of the front office provision across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight is taking place, including that at Cosham.

‘The review team has visited all front counters to carry out analysis of the demand, of the services provided, and of the risks and impacts of potential closure on the community and partner agencies.

‘All these factors will be considered before final proposals on the location, service provision and opening times of future front counters are submitted.’

John Apter, chairman of Hampshire’s Police Federation, which represents rank and file officers, said: ‘Whatever the outcome, the police have got to remain accessible to all – and that’s not just those who need to use a computer.

‘I can see that we will have police points of contact for the desktop services at places like supermarkets or libraries – as long as that suits the public that’s fine with us. I have worked in police stations like Southsea and Lyndhurst and I’m devastated they are going to be a lost service, but it’s about restructuring.’

Police say staff are being consulted in the review. Findings will be presented to Hampshire Police Authority in September. A decision on a review of five other police buildings on our patch is also expected to be made then.

They are at Gunwharf Quays and Marine Parade in Portsmouth, Havant Witness Interview Service, Crofton Community Centre in Stubbington and Portsmouth International Port.

But no stations will shut until Safer Neighbourhoods Teams have another suitable base to work from.