Shock as police stations facing axe

Paul Maynard MP
Paul Maynard MP

ANGER has erupted at the news seven Fylde coast police stations are set to close their doors to the public.

Under shock proposals – announced as part of massive cost-cutting by Lancashire Police – stations in Poulton, Cleveleys, Lytham and Freckleton will be sold off while front counters will close at Bispham, South Shore and Kirkham.

The Gazette revealed last month controversial plans to close Poulton as well as public fears over the future for policing in Cleveleys.

Blackpool North and Cleveleys MP Paul Maynard said his constituency would be left without a police station under the proposals, which will be the subject of three-month public consultation.

He said: “I’m shocked and angered this leaves practically zero policing for the residents I represent. It has always been a fundamental principal that the public should have access to their police force, this will just see the police become more and more isolated from the people they serve.

“I do understand savings have to be made. However, like in any organisation, there has to be back office costs, waste and unnecessary spending cut first and I am not convinced the Chief Constable has sufficiently demonstrated that this has been looked at.

“I will be doing all I can to campaign and argue for a reverse in these closures and will see whether the use of local volunteers can see the stations at least manned by someone.”

Lytham county councillor Tim Ashton said he was going to launch a campaign to save Lytham Police Station.

He said: “I’m devastated by this news and believe the loss of a much-needed resource like this is a retrograde step for the town. A lot of money was spent on the upgrade of the shop and now we’re told it’s going to close.”

Forty-five police stations across Lancashire are set to close their doors to the public.

Together with the plans to close the seven Fylde coast stations, rural police houses in Preesall, Hambleton, Singleton, Weeton and Bowgreave in Garstang are on the market to be sold.

Police say the move is part of £42m of savings to be made over the next four years – and only stations which are rarely used by the public will be affected.

The public will still be able to call into Blackpool’s Bonny Street HQ as well as St Annes and Fleetwood. The future of Garstang’s main police station is unclear.

Assistant Chief Constable Andy Cooke said: “The constabulary recognises the closure of any front counter, or indeed any police premise, is iconic for the public and will cause concern. This is why it has looked closely at visitor numbers in particular to identify those which are used the most in order to limit the impact to a potentially smaller number of people.

“We fully expect this will be a difficult discussion for us to have with the public and one that will be highly emotive, but there is the potential to save in the region of £1m per year in running costs through the proposals set out in this review, and more than £4m from the sale of the properties.

“These are significant sums of money. It will be vital for us to carefully consider how we strike the right balance between finding the savings whilst limiting the impact on the public and protecting officer numbers in what is an already constricting environment.”

Leader of Wyre Council, Coun Peter Gibson said decisions had clearly already been made.

He said: “This consultation, which should have been carried out weeks ago, is a ticking the box exercise. I’m furious, there are 21 front counters to close, 13 will still have operational staff and eight will close completely including Poulton and Cleveleys. Wyre seems to have really suffered on this.”

Malcolm Doherty, Chairman of Lancashire Police Authority, said the constabulary was “faced with some difficult choices” in order to meet the required budget reductions.

But he added: “I should stress no decisions have yet been made as far as these plans are concerned. I can assure people that we will take their views into account when the time comes to take that decision.”

Three months of consultation, starting on 1 July, will now take place before the final decisions are made later this year and a police spokesman said more details of how people can share their views will be released soon.

Martin Hunns, chairman of Cleveleys chamber of trade said: “The traders will be very upset. We need the presence in Cleveleys it’s vital.

“We’ve only recently managed to improve crime and disorder in the town, we used to have a lot of trouble with shoplifters and thieves but crime levels are lower now.

“These recommendations have come from the police authority – they don’t see what it is like in the town centre, they don’t know what public and business owners need.”

Fylde MP Mark Menzies said: “It’s important to ensure frontline policing and response times are not affected.

“The figures provided to me show there are 1.9 visits per hour to Lytham police station and the amount of manpower to service that could be better used.

“They want to make sure there is a maximum police presence out on the streets, not sat behind a desk and I have some sympathy with that.”

Blackpool South MP Gordon Marsden said: “The proposal to close the front desk at South Shore is based on the low footfall there at present. People in South Shore will want to be confident none of this will adversely affect the current provision. It should not affect police numbers but I will monitor this carefully.”

But Coun David O’Hara, councillor for Waterloo ward, said the closure of the front desk at South Shore would affect both residents and visitors.

He said: “I’m quite annoyed about it, it’s one less contact for the public.