More Shropshire police stations could close, says commissioner

More police stations could close across Shropshire under plans that could see officers sharing buildings with the fire service.

More Shropshire police stations could close, says commissioner

West Mercia Police and Crime Commissioner Bill Longmore said he is currently reviewing the use of police stations across the county amid plans that would see officers based within the same facilities as Shropshire Fire and Rescue teams.

Mr Longmore said: "It is an ongoing thing. All the stations that have been closed were closed for the right reasons.

"I think we have got to look at them all now and think 'could we make another move?' – That is why we are in consultation with fire stations. It is a question of looking at everything and making sure that everything is being done correctly.

"Over the last two months in particular, the fire service has been looking to work closer with the police and there are opportunities for the fire and police stations to work closer together. This is very important for both of them."

Last year, police stations across the county were closed to the public and replaced with "contact points" in a bid to save money. Front counters were closed in Wellington, Bridgnorth, Church Stretton, Ludlow, Market Drayton, Oswestry, Wem and Whitchurch. The service hours were also reduced at Shrewsbury Police Station but remained the same at Malinsgate Police Station in Telford.

The plans came under fire from MPs and councillors who said they were concerned some people would not report crimes if they could not access their local station.

PCC Bill Longmore

But Mr Longmore said: "Having looked at the use of the police station I must admit I used to see them when they were open to the community but I have had to come to the conclusion that no longer are police stations used very often by people.

"It is quite surprising seeing how many people have stopped visiting for a number of reasons but the fact is that police stations are not being used and we have to look at better ways of doing things.

"I do want people to be able to contact police officers – it would be a mistake to take everything away. We are looking to start hubs up because we want people to continue to contact the police."

Mr Longmore added: "It is a question of looking at all the ones we have left open and looking again to see if there is an alternative and joining with the fire service is an on-going idea. Last month it was revealed that Whitchurch police station could be among the first to merge with the fire station as part of plans to save £30 million between April 2015 and 2018.

Mr Longmore said: "In Whitchurch we are looking at the fire station and thinking of closing the police station down – we would have a new facility with the police and fire service which will make better opportunities for both services."

"But in Market Drayton, the station is a big new police station and councillors asked if we should not consider the use of that and alternatives."

He said consideration was being given to whether the best option in Market Drayton would be to sell the £6 million station, and move officers to another building.

He added the fire service is "on board" with the new way of thinking and that a similar scenario had been successful in Bromsgrove.

He said: "I think people understand about the cuts and that we obviously had to take our share. It is up to us to get the best value for money.

"We are looking at this across the area and taking everything into account.

"We want to come to a better way of policing and one that is more financially efficient.

"But I want to make sure we have a police presence in the community and that people feel safe."

Mr Longmore said: "We have to talk with the fire authority to see if we can come up with a suitable arrangement."

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