Members of the public who need to visit a Police Station front counter to make an enquiry can look forward to a better quality of service from 1st October, according to Lancashire Constabulary.
14 front counters will close but the 24 remaining will offer more consistent opening hours and a wider range of services. The majority won’t close for lunch, training purposes or for any other reason outside of those hours either.
In addition, they will all offer the same services which means that members of the public will no longer be sent from counter to counter to access the service(s) they need.
The review of front counter services was sparked by cuts resulting from the Coalition government's Comprehensive Spending Review and a need for the Constabulary to save £43 million by 2015. The changes will save the force £386,000 through the 14 closures; £4.5million through the sale of 31 other police buildings; and around £500,000 in the running costs of those buildings.
However, whilst the review presented opportunities in terms of savings and service provision, the decision to close some less well used front counters was not taken lightly.
Extensive consultation was undertaken with over 11,000 people expressing a view on the closures and, as a result, Lancashire Constabulary decided to keep seven front counters that were originally earmarked for closure, reducing the closures from 21 to 14.
The review of Front Counter services looked at a range of issues including opening hours, services provided to the public and working practices across the force. It found that 81% of the total footfall of visitors across the county is catered for by just 17 of the front counters. The remaining 21 were dealing with only 19% of the overall footfall.
A front counter is not the entire police station. Of the 14 front counters that will close, just under half of the police stations they are based in will remain operational, meaning that police officers and staff will continue to work in them. However, they will not be open to the general public.
The front counters which will close are: Southshore and Lytham in Western Division; Garstang and Cleveleys in Nothern Division; Bamber Bridge in Southern Division; Preston Town Hall and Fulwood in Central Division; Longridge in Eastern Division and Rawtenstall, Bacup, Haslingden, Briefield, Padiham and Earby in Pennine Division.
“The changes to front counter provision were necessary, not just to save money but also to bring some level of consistency to the level of service provided to the public," commented Chief Superintendent Sarah Oldham from Lancashire Police.
“When considering changes we looked very closely at visitor numbers in particular to identify those which are used the most in order to limit the impact to a potentially smaller number of people.
“We also listened to the views of the public and changed our proposals in response to some very strong opinions where we were able to do so.
“We fully appreciate that where closures happen the public may be concerned but the majority of people will have less than five miles to travel to an alternative front counter where they should experience a much better quality of service.
“Members of the public can also contact the police in others ways now too. You can call us on 101 for routine incidents or enquiries or contact us through our website.
"Of course, people can always call 999 if there is an emergency and if you need to speak to an officer urgently and you are outside a police station that isn’t open you can use the ‘Yellow Phone’ facility which connects you directly to our contact centre.
“Over recent years, the Constabulary has also extended its reach into the community and now operates out of almost 200 different bases across the county," she concluded, "meaning it replies less on the public coming into stations. It also has dedicated neighbourhood policing teams so officers will remain in the heart of local communities.
“Furthermore, the continued development of on-line and digital services also provides more opportunities for the public to access services differently and this will continue as technology evolves.”