Police chiefs are facing a political row over plans to axe round-the-clock opening times of front desks at four major police stations in Birmingham.
Stations in Aston, Handsworth, Harborne and Kings Heath will have opening times slashed from 24/7 to just eight hours between 10am and 6pm. They are among 12 stations across the West Midlands that will see opening times cut as the force looks to find £126 million savings over four years.
The fresh cutbacks were revealed in letters sent from Chief Superintendents to key partners which stated the changes would come into effect from January after a review found little demand in the evenings and overnight.
The ruling West Midlands Police Authority appeared to have been caught out by the proposed changes which they aren’t due to consider until NEXT month.
In a statement, the Authority said it “had been made aware of the letter” which it “understood was part of the consultation the force was undertaking”.
“We recognise the importance of this issue to local people and will want to ensure proper consultation takes place on the proposals that both respects the public and offers opportunities for their views to be taken into account,” the statement added.
Meanwhile, Mike Olley, bidding to become the first elected West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner, in the November 2012 election, described the move as lacking in “human sentiment and sympathy” and accused police chiefs of failing to properly consult.
The former Birmingham councillor, currently the Broad Street BID manager, said: “This is the most important removal of police front line services that we have ever witnessed and it is important that those affected are given every opportunity to respond to these proposals.
“2.7 million people are affected by these changes. I am not content that there has been much effort made in seeking the views of the general public.
“This matter is of such importance that I would have at least expected it to be on the front page of the West Midlands Police website. It is not and that’s a real pity. A police station is a part of the social fabric and a place of safety and reassurance in any community. We must never lose sight of what they represent.”
Under the proposals external telephones will be fitted to the stations given access to call handlers when front offices were closed with staff being redirected to help support call centres.
Birmingham City Council last month passed a motion condemning the front desk cuts after Chief Con Chris Sims described them as being mainly “symbolic value” and many used “sporadically” by the public.
The letter stressed the force would still have 65 front offices open to the public and “households would never be more than four miles from a 24/7 police station across the region”.
Dep Chief Con Dave Thompson said: “We need to modernise our approach as we police a different world now to what we did even ten years ago. The majority of people now contact us over the phone or via email and would simply never want to set foot in a police station.
“We need to provide a service that is right for the people we serve and not carry on working in a particular way simply because it’s the way we always have.”