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Police station front offices under threat of closure and reduced opening hours as Dorset Police look to save cash
FRONT offices of police stations are under threat of closure and reduced opening hours under a bid to save £500,000.
They have urged the public to have their say on the plans although individual stations have not yet been identified.
Chief Constable Debbie Simpson said: “We are acutely aware that any changes to local policing, particularly those affecting station enquiry offices, are likely to generate considerable discussion.
“It is for this reason that Dorset Police will be in communication with key stakeholders over the coming weeks.
“I hope that this engagement will help to inform all of our communities of the rationale for change and also help to identify gaps in provision and how we can fill them.
“I would like to reassure members of the public that no final decisions have been made regarding station desk office provision in Dorset.
“However, we have to meet a very challenging budgetary situation and we are committed to providing the best possible service while reflecting true demand and value for money.
“I would also like to stress that the potential closure of station desks does not mean the closure of the police station themselves. The force continues to ensure that there is a policing footprint in every town in Dorset.”
The force and Mr Underhill say that their review shows some station desk officers are not busy enough, with some enquiry offices receiving just a few visits per day.
They claim surveys show the majority of Dorset’s residents prefer to make contact with the police by telephone or via the police force’s website.
The shake-up would mean some front offices closing or opening for reduced hours, although the stations themselves would still be manned with officers.
Mr Underhill said: “Dorset Police is the fourth lowest spending force in England and Wales and there is no doubt that difficult choices need to be made.
“However, I am committed to ensuring that the force makes the best use of reducing resources to deliver a service that reflects the needs of our communities.”
He added that he and the chief constable had also recently made improvements to the 101 non-emergency service and were working to introduce a victims’ bureau to allow police to support victims of crime and antisocial behaviour.
He added: “It’s important to me that we listen to all our communities as part of the engagement process. I’d urge anyone with suggestions or concerns to provide feedback.
“There are many ways to do this, including at the various public engagement forums that I hold across the county.”
The move comes after Mr Underhill warned of the closure of police stations at the regional forum of the UK Youth Parliament. The Dorset Echo also reported earlier this year that underused and empty buildings are costing the police £2.1 million a year – enough to hire 60 extra police officers.
Weymouth East police station in Dorchester Road, for example, is used by just a handful of officers.
Members of the public wishing to provide feedback are encouraged to email consultation@ dorset.pnn.police.uk.
Move ‘should be opposed’
DORSET Police Federation chairman Clive Chamberlain has urged to people to oppose the closures.
He warned that the move was a further step away from community policing – and that things would get worse because of government cuts.
Mr Chamberlain, said: “It’s another opportunity lost for the public to directly interact with local police and is a direct result of cuts imposed by the government. It is a sad day when you are unable to walk into your local police station, because most will be closed unless you are in a major town and even then they may have limited opening hours. I think it is a bad step.”
He added: “This is a direct result of government cuts, which every MP in the county voted for. I would encourage anyone, if they are not happy about what is happening, to contact their MP and let them know.”
Mr Chamberlain said that he was not being critical of Mr Underhill and Chief Constable Simpson as he understood why they were proposing the move, but he said the losers would be the people of Dorset.
“Our commissioner and chief constable are being forced to make moves which are not positive and will result in a worse service than we have at the moment.”
Mr Chamberlain said the public liked the reassurance of a police station and that many people prefered to contact police in person rather than by phone or email. He said that front offices dealt with a myriad of matters and that people often reported things or provided confidential information.
He added that statistics would be used to show police station front desks were not being used but that was because offices were closed so people couldn’t use them. And he warned that worse was on its way with the spectre of actual police station closures and the loss of 500 police officers.
“It is going to get worse. It has barely started yet. I don’t like being the harbinger of doom but I am a realist.”
He added: “With 500 fewer police officers the public will be paying more for less.”
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