Front desks at police stations face closure under money saving proposals

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Five police stations could be closed to the public under money saving measures.

If given the go ahead following consultation with staff, enquiry offices at Flitwick, Biggleswade, Leighton Buzzard, Dunstable and Houghton Regis will shut permanently.

Jon Boutcher

Jon Boutcher

Community police teams will still be based at the stations but people will only be able to see an officer by booking an appointment first.

At Biggleswade and Dunstable, officers that respond to 999 calls will still work out of the stations.

Reception desks at Luton and Bedford’s Greyfrairs police stations will remain open and an additional enquiry desk would open next year at the Beds Police headquarters in Kempston.

The closure plans have been drawn up under a £250,000 cost cutting scheme.

Chief Constable Jon Boutcher said: “These decisions are never made lightly but we must continue to explore ways of delivering savings whilst improving the effectiveness of our service delivery.

“People contact us and engage with us in a variety of different ways including by phone and online, as well as face-to-face in their communities and homes, so the demand on enquiry offices has reduced over time. We have to adapt to those changes.

“Another factor has been the recent introduction of our new ‘Fast/Fixed’ operating model which gives victims the opportunity to have an appointment with an officer at a location to suit them. That is often their own home, but we must also continue to offer facilities on the force estate for those who prefer to come into a police station.

“The force faces tough financial challenges and we must continue to make tough decisions to realise the necessary £17.5 million savings by 2019, whilst protecting frontline policing as best we can.

“Although early days, the new model is already showing signs of delivering improved response times, which is exactly what we want to see. This is as a result of effectively assessing calls to determine an appropriate response and focussing our ‘Fast’ Response resources on those incidents where people need a quick-time police presence. That is what best protects people and what ultimately can save lives.

“We will continue to explore new ways of working as we aim to achieve our vision of being a well-respected, high-performing, efficiently run police service working together to protect people, fight crime and keep Bedfordshire safe.”

Cash strapped Beds Police needs to make savings of £17.5 million by 2019, which includes a six per cent reduction in the force’s estate.

Police and Crime Commissioner Olly Martins said: “In June Bedfordshire Police introduced the new ‘fast/fixed’ operating model which included putting warranted police constables back into the dedicated community policing teams in each part of the county. This has meant a modest increase in the number of officers, but this is only possible if we cut costs elsewhere, hence this consultation with staff about these five enquiry offices.

“The public tell me very clearly that they want police officers to be more visible in their communities but to deliver this means taking some difficult decisions about how best to use our limited resources. In this time of austerity, keeping open enquiry offices that are only visited by two or three callers a day, often just to ask for directions, does not seem very sensible.”