A public consultation process will begin on 1st July 2011 which could help determine the future of police premises across the Lancaster and Morecambe area - and Lancashire as a whole.
As we previously reported, the Constabulary is considering a report outlining potential savings of up to £1 million annually and one-off sales of over £4 million.
The potential savings - which may see the closure and sell off of police stations in Carnforth, Over Kellet, Cowan Bridge, Caton, Cabus and Bowgreave (in Old Garstang) - are part of on-going work to identify savings in the region of £42 million over the next four years.
The 12-week consultation process will give local people the chance to have their say on Lancashire Constabulary’s plans to review front counter services and potentially close some of the county’s police buildings.
Consultation will begin with officers and Commanders speaking to members of the public as part of their daily business and conducting focus groups.
In addition, people will also be able to post their views on a special discussion board on the Lancashire Constabulary Facebook page www.facebook.com/lancspolice or e-mail their comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
In August, telephone surveys will be conducted with residents and people will be able to have their say via surveys on both the Lancashire Constabulary and Lancashire Police Authority websites.
Commenting on the consultation, Chief Superintendent Tim Jacques from Lancashire Police said: “As part of on-going work to identify savings in the region of £42 million over the next four years, the Constabulary has been reviewing the properties it uses and the services it provides at front counters in police stations.
“We’ve looked carefully at visitor numbers to identify those which are used the most in order to limit the impact on local communities but we recognise that any closures will cause concern which is why we want to consult before we make any final decisions.
“I would urge anyone with a view to contact us and let us know their thoughts. They can do this in a variety of ways, starting with Facebook and e-mail, followed by telephone and web surveys next month.
He added: “At the end of it, there will have to be some very difficult decisions made and some cuts are inevitable given the amount of money we need to save. However, it is our firm intention to make sure that we strike the right balance between finding these savings while limiting the impact on the public and protecting officer numbers in what is an already constricting environment.”
"Lancashire Constabulary is working hard to deliver a more effective, responsive and locally delivered service," argues the Chair of Lancashire Police Authority, Malcolm Doherty, "and to do this it needs a property estate that is reflective of the public's needs and one that is flexible enough for the Constabulary to adapt to meet new challenges within the current financial climate.
“We must quite rightly consider the balance between the provision of a flexible and responsive policing service that the public quite rightly expects, alongside the need to find savings of £42M over the next four years.
“We recognise that there is no 'one size fits all' approach when it comes to access and contact between the police and the public. Reviewing services, adapting to demand and making best use of resources are critical elements of delivering responsive, flexible policing services that best meet the demands placed upon it by the end user - the public.
"I encourage Lancashire residents to get involved in this consultation and give their views".
Proposals to change the services offered at some police station front counters were put forward earlier this month following a review of issues including opening hours, services provided to the public and working practices across the force.
The review found that 81 per cent of the total footfall of visitors across the county is catered for by just 17 of the front counters. The remaining 21 are dealing with only 19 per cent of the overall footfall and were therefore recommended for closure.
“It is our belief that closing the front desks which are currently underused and offering a standardised service in all of the remaining front counters, will result in an improvement on the current position," feels Tim Jacques, "which sees people being sent from one counter to another depending on the services they need to access.
“In addition, over recent years, we have extended our reach into the community and now operate out of 200 different bases across the county. This means we rely less on the public coming to us. The development of on line and digital services also provides additional opportunities for the public to access services differently and this will continue as technology moves forward.
“However all that said, we recognise that police station closures can cause anxiety and concern amongst local people which is why we are asking the Lancashire public for their views.”