West Midlands Police staff could be sharing fire stations, council offices and libraries if the force axes 24 buildings in a £5 million cost cutting move.
Residents in Sutton Coldfield and Solihull could also be visiting police in the local library when the station front offices close the police commissioner’s strategic board was told.
Police head of property Andy Kelly said that too many police stations are under-used, out of date and too expensive to run with money being better saved for frontline officers.
He said: “Too much of our estate is in a very poor condition. For the last five or six years we have been fixing health and safety issues only.”
A breakdown of costs found that some of the stations costs £5 million a year to run - with Solihull the highest with annual cost of £415,000. Twelve of the buildings cost more than £100,000 per year.
The sell off would also save £20 million in one off repair costs and raise about £40 million through sales.
Mr Kelly said that he expects the cull to take up to six years as the force moves to new buildings. The new front offices for Sutton Coldfield and Solihull would be in place before the current ones close he stressed.
“We are talking about more co-location of offices with partner organisations. The fire station in Sutton Coldfield is a very good place to house our teams, close to the police station.”
He added that the library in the town centre has been suggested for the public contact office.
It is a similar situation in Solihull where talks are underway with the council over office shares and the library. Mr Kelly said there are a number of good options for a contact office in the town.
Asked by board members about the mere confidence having a police presence in a neighbourhood gives Mr Kelly replied that in many cases neighbourhood police teams will move into nearby fire stations or offices to remain on patch after their own stations close.
There have also been a number of local campaigns launched to save stations from closure . Talking about the closure of Solihull police station, local MP Julian Knight said:“This is an entirely unnecessary and harmful decision. Local police stations are absolutely vital to ensuring that the police are able to be actively involved in the community and be a regular presence on our streets.”
The policy is now out for a month of public consultation.
Police commissioner David Jamieson said: “The proposals in this strategy are not finalised. That is why I have asked police commanders to talk and listen to the thoughts of their local communities over the next month.”