Police chiefs could be forced to axe services that would impact on the safety of the public if they are not allowed to close station front counters.
That was the stark warning from West Midlands Police chief constable Chris Sims as the force came in for criticism over the proposals during a heated debate with the Police Authority.
Under the plans, the force want to axe around-the-clock opening hours at stations in Aston, Harborne and Kings Heath to just eight hours between 10am and 6pm and Handsworth from 8am to 8pm.
They are among 12 stations across the West Midlands that could see opening times cut as the force looks to find £126 million savings over four years.
External telephones will instead be fitted to the stations to allow public access to call handlers when front offices are closed.
Dudley North MP Ian Austin handed in a 2,000-strong petition protesting the closures to Dudley while another, containing 1,900 signatures, was delivered calling for a halt to changes at Bloxwich saying it would have a damaging effect impact on residents’ feelings of safety.
Meanwhile, members of the Police Authority criticised the way the force had consulted with the public over the plans.
Independent Authority member Julia Lyle said: “The Authority and public need reassurance that consultation is not a superficial exercise.”
Coun Bob Jones (Wton) said the consultation was “flawed” and “too short a period”.
Independent member Phillip Holmes added that the short timeframe of the consultation “implied that the proposals were a fait accompli”.
Mr Sims said he would take the feedback on board before implementing any of the proposals.
But he warned: “If we deviate from the core of these proposals, then I will be having to cut something else. The potential is that I will be cutting something that has a more direct impact on the safety and services that we provide that the proposals here.” He added: “Let’s not kid ourselves, this is one difficult decision but there will be many, many more as we go forward.”
The force agreed that the deadline for consultation would be extended until January 15.
Authority chair, Bishop Derek Webley, said: “We recognise the importance of this issue to local people and will ensure that proper consultation takes place on the proposals that both respects the public and offers opportunities for their views to be taken into account.”