Police bosses insist they have no other option than to close down front counter services as they face the need to cut yet more cash from the force’s budget.
Lancashire’s Police and Crime Commisioner, Clive Grunshaw, announced on Tuesday a consultation over plans to shut ten enqiry desks across Lancashire, including those in Bispham, Poulton, St Annes and Kirkham.
The move has been met by criticism from some quarters, particularly in Fylde where the police would have no front counter presence.
But with nearly £20m of additional savings to be made, Mr Grunshaw is clear tough decisions have to be taken, with a further £19.8m of savings to be found by 2020, on top of a reduction of £72.2m
The least-used police counters cost nearly nine times as much to operate per caller compared to main stations such as Bonny Street in Blackpool. It is a cost the service, forced to make cutbacks, cannot afford.”
A spokesman for the Comisssioner’s office said: “Serving a member of public at our enquiry desks based on the costs of staffing them versus the number of the people they serve, costs between £5.77 at the busiest station and £44.23 at the quietest. By making sure our busiest enquiry desks stay open and closing our quietest ones we can improve value for money and make some of the savings needed.”
Mr Grunshaw has made clear the changes will not affect the way day-to-day policing operations are carried out and will help to keep officers on the streets.
And the commissioners office insist there will still be numerous ways to make contact with officers.
A spokesman said: “The vast majority of crime reports are made via 999 in emergency situations, for minor incidents its 101 and via the website. The public have said in a survey that they prefer to report incidents this way too. As more and more people choose to use the telephone or online services, so the number of people calling at police stations has fallen with some stations seeing only a handful of visitors in a day.
“If you have reported a case already then your police officer will give you a contact number or email address to get in touch with them directly and the Constabulary will be launching an improved new online reporting system.”
Mr Grunshaw’s office points out that Lancashire currently has 23 desks compared to only 12 in Greater Manchester
But not everybody is happy with the proposed reduction.
Fylde Coun Mark Bamforth, who had raised concerns over policing in Lytham, is angry people will have to travel to Blackpool or Preston for routine business.
He said: This means we have no direct access to the police in the whole of the borough .
“If you have to attend a police station for any reason, such as to produce documents, it will be Preston or Blackpool
“What a disgrace.”
The closure of Bispham police station’s front counter has also caused concern.
Coun Danny Scott, who represents Warbreck on Blackpool Council, said: “I don’t think this would be the right decision and people will have to travel further to speak face to face with an officer.”
Only front counter services would close at each of the stations named in the consultation. The police stations would remain in use by officers.