Police chiefs have come under fire over plans to abolish a 24/7 front counter services at South Shields’ main police station.
Police had already announced that, as from July 17, Hebburn would no longer have a facillity where people can walk in and speak to an officer.
I am especially concerned about the impact of reducing the services of frontline offices on people who may not have access to ICT or who have difficulty in using it.Emma Lewell-Buck
It has now emerged that Northumbria Police plans to slash the public opening hours of the main staion in Millbank, South Shields, to 8am to 8pm.
This represents a reduction of more than 100 hours a week being lost to residents who want to have face to face contact with pilice across South Tyneside.
Police say the changes are being made in response to a decline in the use of front offices and the cash saved being used to support operational policing. Further investment will also be put into the 101 contact centres.
However, the plans have come under fire from South Tyneside Council leader, Coun Iain Malcolm in a a scathing letter to Chief Constable Steve Ashman over a lack of consultation.
He has asked when the plans were approaved and why they were not discussed with the council or at the last South Tyneside Partnership meeting.
He is also calling for statistical analyis and a justification of “depriving the borough of a 24/7 front-facing service.”
South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck has also spoken out at the pending cut of hours to the front-office at Millbank,
She said: “Making it easier to report a crime online is no substitute for having the option to report a crime in person. I am especially concerned about the impact of reducing the services of frontline offices on people who may not have access to ICT or who have difficulty in using it. People may be less likely to report crimes as a result.”
She added: “Community policing is the bedrock of English policing. Recent horrendous events have proven this. At a time when we need frontline police services more than ever, these cuts and the Government’s decision last night to vote against lifting the cap on public sector pay are further indications of this Government’s contempt for our hard-working public services as well as the safety and wellbeing of the nation.”
Mr Ashman said: “We are still wrestling with the impact of austerity and the cuts that we have faced in Northumbria are the largest of any force in the country. This has meant that we have to make difficult decisions whilst striving to deliver the best possible service to our communities.
“We know that the public want to see police officers on the street and we are changing the way we work in order to protect this.
“We always strive to provide an outstanding service to everyone in our communities and this investment into online and social communication will enable us to continue to do that.”