West Midlands Police is closing a landmark Birmingham city centre police station in a desperate bid to save cash.

The force is selling off three stations in Birmingham: Steelhouse Lane, which opened in the city centre in 1892, Aston police station, in Queens Road, and Edgbaston station, in Belgrave Middleway.

Officers who use Edgbaston or Aston could be moved into local shopping centres within two years to save cash.

And two city centre administrative bases at Civic House and Aqua House, will be vacated when the leases expire in 2015 to save on expensive rental costs.

Back office staff and staff from Steelhouse Lane will move into the force's Colmore Circus HQ at Lloyd House, which will see capacity shoot up 60 per cent with staff asked to 'hot desk' and work at open plan workstations.

There will also be two new 60-cell “super custody blocks” built in Birmingham, possibly in Perry Barr, and another in Sandwell.

In a joint statement from Commissioner Bob Jones and Chief Constable Chris Sims the force said the phased changes would be completed within two years and would cost £24million out of the forces capital budget.

Commissioner Jones added that the changes would affect about 2,000 staff members and would save the equivalent of 70 police officer posts and would pay for themselves in savings within six years.

Chief Constable Sims added: “We have been working on these plans for several years and they are a response to the economic challenges we face.
“Steelhouse Lane is a building of huge historic significance, but as a working operational building it is at the end of its life. We have an opportunity to move on several generations.

“I think the changes will be positive.”

Commissioner Jones added: “These changes will help protect front-line services, provide better value for money and better flexibility.

“We have already had to save £126m over the last four years and now face further savings of around £20m for the foreseeable future we have to make some critical decisions.

“The savings we can make by adopting these changes is the equivalent of 70 officers.

“The current estate is spread over 140 sites and is inflexible and dated.”

“Our estate has not changed in size for decades, despite huge changes to policing.

“By the end of 2011/12 the number of staff in the force had reduced by around 13 per cent, but our overall estate had not reduced in line with this.”

Commissioner Jones also said neighbourhood teams currently working in Edgbaston and Aston could be moved into drop-in centres at shopping centres and supermarkets like they had done in Chelmsley Wood.

He also said all three police bases would eventually be sold off and there was a possibility that some staff based at Lloyd House could work from home.
He added: “Where we have moved to work alongside partners like the Bluebell Centre in Solihull the feedback we have received from members of the public has been very positive and enthusiastic.

“Those bases have become isolated from the local community and we want to make them more central and more accessible.

“In addition we currently have a number of leased bases in the city centre which are simply not cost effective.

“As well as here and now we have to look to the future. Developments in ICT and mobile working will mean that in the future staff could work more flexibly, challenging the traditional way buildings are used.”

Steelhouse Lane was built in 1892 and is currently the headquarters of Birmingham West & Central local policing unit.

Its Victorian-era custody block, a Grade II listed building – once described as being like a mini prison – is one of the oldest still in operation in the country.