Police and Crime Commissioner objects to mothballing of 17 small police ‘hubs’
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According to the PCC, it was revealed this week the force has taken the decision to lock up several small police buildings, mostly unstaffed to save money.
PCC Marc Jones, elected to be the public voice to policing in the county and to hold the Chief Constable to account, has strongly criticised the move – saying the decision should not have been made without proper public consultation along with community and equality impact assessments being carried out.
Mr Jones had already committed to commissioning the College of Policing to undertake an assessment of neighbourhood policing across Lincolnshire which includes the force’s use of its buildings.
A decision to mothball stations, is an operational matter, does not need to be signed off by the PCC and can be made, independently, by senior officers. A decision to sell buildings however can only be taken by the PCC.
The 17 small stations listed for mothballing are at: Saxilby, Lincoln South, Caistor, Kirton, Crowland, Billingborough, Caythorpe, Colsterworth, Long Bennington, Market Deeping, Ruskington, Alford, Holten-le-Clay, Spilsby, Wainfleet, Woodhall Spa and Wragby.
Lincolnshire Police says the decision to mothball the 17 hubs across the county was taken because they were “not currently in operational use” and an independent piece of research suggested resources were better diverted elsewhere.
Yet Mr Jones believes the decision is shortsighted and should have been delayed until the new Chief Constable was in post to consider the full impact of such an important decision.
“I have always said that it is not just important for people to be safe, they must feel safe as well. It doesn’t matter whether a member of the public uses a station regularly or not – the visible presence is important,” he said.
“I knew the force was considering the future use of these stations, which is part of good asset and budget management, but believed that no decisions would be taken before the arrival of the new Chief Constable. To have closed them, even if it proves to be on a temporary basis, without proper consultation and understanding of the impact upon our communities is unacceptable.
“My role is to stand up for the people of Lincolnshire and make sure policing is carried out in their best interests. This issue proves the value of having a strong, publicly elected representative in post to prevent such arbitrary decisions being make without the public being made aware or considered.
“I have made my feeling on this matter completely clear to the senior officer team – I am against this decision and will ask the new Chief Constable to review it immediately they are in position and to take appropriate steps to consider the public properly in all future decision making.
“The savings derived from mothballing the 17 buildings are not huge, at an average of a little over £1,000 a month per building, and may prove to be a false economy anyway if it leads to higher future maintenance costs. The force can only effectively police the county with the public’s consent.
“Maintaining that trust is critical. Making decisions like this without proper explanation or consultation is foolhardy.”
Chief Superintendent Kate Anderson, Head of Local Policing and Partnerships, responded on behalf of the force, saying: “A number of small Lincolnshire Police buildings are not currently in operational use after they were identified as an area of force spend that could offer immediate financial savings. Revenue savings of £227,250 per year could be made by not spending on facilities and utilities in these spaces, which research showed were barely being used by the public or police staff.
“These buildings have not been sold or fully closed. They are still available to us but are not currently being used because of our deployment model, and a final decision is yet to be made about their future use. We will of course engage with our communities and key stakeholders before any final decision is made.”