Councillors have hit out at police plans to close down a “face to face’ meeting point with the public in South Tyneside.
Hebburn councillors, Coun Adam Ellison and Coun Richard Porthouse, have criticised Northumbria Police after the force confirmed it will close the front counter service at Hebburn Central next month.
The service was provided following the closure of the town’s police station.
Both are now seeking a meeting with the Northumbria Police Crime Commissioner Panel in a bid to have the decision reviewed.
The councillors say the service will be withdrawn from July 17 when people will no longer be able to visit Hebburn Central to report a crime or speak to an officer face to face.
It is understood the force intends to make more use of phone lines and social media.
“To find out this service will close is deeply concerning.”Coun Adam Ellison
Police bosses say Northumbria has faced the biggest financial cuts of any force in the country and the service is underused.
The move will see two other front office closures, at Killingworth in North Tyneside and Amble in Northumberland.
The news has been met with “deep concern” by councillors who say they were notified of the move by police chiefs, this week.
They fear it will make it more difficult for residents to report any crime concerns - in particular the town’s elderly and more vulnerable residents.
Coun Ellison said: “I am concerned about Northumbria Police’s decision to close the front desk facility at Hebburn Central, removing
people’sbility to report crime at our community hub. Many of our residents appreciate the ability to have that face-to-face contact when reporting issues.
“I certainly was not consulted on this. To find out today that this service will close on July 17 is deeply concerning.
“I have requested a meeting with our presentations on the Police and Crime Commissioner Panel to discuss this further and highlight our concerns”
His concerns have been echoed by fellow councillor Richard Porthouse.
He said: “The first we heard of the closure was when we were informed by a council officer of the plans to close the front desk facility.
“This is very concerning as this is a vital service which reassures our residents, especially those who are most vulnerable.
“They’ve said they will enhance their phone and digital services - but people who have concerns like to speak to people face to face.”
He added: “While it may seem like it, not everyone is on social media.
“There has been no consultation over this and it is concerning.”
Steve Ashman, chief donstable of Northumbria Police 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 also know that residents don’t want to have to go to a police station in order to report information; but rather report it in their own home and at a time that is convenient for them.
“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.”