THE leader of South Tyneside Council has told of his relief that the borough is retaining its main police station as the Northumbria force plans swingeing cutbacks.
Three buildings in Sunderland Road, South Shields, North Road, Boldon Colliery, and Victoria Road East, Hebburn, are to be sold off after restructuring plans were announced in a bid to save £46m by 2017.
The marine division base and Police National Diving and Marine School, on the Viking Industrial Park, off Rolling Mill Road, Jarrow, will also close.
Faced with the need to shed 400 jobs, Northumbria Police is also to down-size its current six area commands to three.
Millbank station in South Shields will remain the area command base for the South Tyneside and Sunderland area.
South Tyneside Council leader Coun Iain Malcolm said he was “delighted” the borough was to retain its area command role.
He says he also believes the proposed moves to transfer a police presence into village halls and health centres will “protect community policing” in the borough.
Harton Police Station – currently not open to the public – will close and officers will be re-located, possibly to the Cleadon Park Primary Care Trust (PCT) building.
Officers at Boldon Colliery, which also closed to the public, will be moved to a new base – with Boldon Colliery Village Hall one option.
Hebburn Police Station, which is open to the public from 9am to 5pm, will close and services will be moved to the new Hebburn Hub when it is built.
Coun Malcolm said: “I accept Northumbria Police have to make significant savings.
“But if it is a choice between closing buildings that the public doesn’t currently have access to and keeping bobbies on the beat, I know which I would choose.
“At the current time neither Harton nor Boldon Colliery stations are open to the public, and re-locating the services will improve community access.
“I am delighted the Millbank station will be the area command for South Tyneside and Sunderland, and I look forward to the consultation to come.
“One proposal for Boldon is for the police to operate from Boldon Village Hall, but, ultimately, the community in Boldon may have another idea.
“The same applies in Harton. Hebburn station will not close until the hub is ready.”
Coun John McCabe, a former representative for the borough on the now-defunct Northumbria Police Authority and Labour representative for Hebburn South, said it was “inevitable”, given the level of savings needed, that the satellite stations have to close.
Meanwhile, Coun Jim Sewell, who represents Monkton for Labour, said a continued police presence on the ground in Hebburn is “vital”.
Jarrow Police Station, in Clervaux Terrace, is already closed and up for sale.
Gordon Armstrong, chairman of Northumbria Police Federation, said: “We recognise that the force will have to make significant changes to its structure in order to navigate through these challenging and difficult times for all.
“We fully support the Chief Constable in her commitment to maintain frontline services and visibility within our communities.
“During these difficult times, Northumbria Police Federation remain committed to working with the Force to ensure the welfare needs of its members are considered at all times.”