Axing police front desks ‘the right choice’, says force’s chief watchdog

PLANS to axe front desk service in two Comet country police stations and close Hertfordshire Constabulary’s Baldock base have been defended as “the right choices” by the force’s chief watchdog.

Stuart Nagler, chairman of Hertfordshire Police Authority, endorsed proposals to close Letchworth GC’s and Hitchin’s front desks and put the neighbouring station in Baldock on the market at a meeting held by the force this week.

In a statement issued to the press he said: “I want to make it quite clear to the public that no community will see a drop in the numbers of police officers and PCSOs allocated to their local policing as a result of these decisions.

“Nor will they see any changes in the emergency response service – the Authority fully expects the Constabulary to continue to meet or exceed its 15 minutes arrival targets.

“These are very difficult decisions but we believe that these are the right choices.”

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The closures and reductions in service take place against a backdrop of cuts across Hertfordshire as the authority aim to plug a funding gap of �36m over four years.

Collaborations with other forces within the country, such as Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire Police, are expected to contribute to the savings however Hertfordshire Police Authority expect around 550 officer and staff posts will go.

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Assistant Chief Constable Alison Roome-Gifford said: “The removal of a front counter service does not mean that the police stations themselves will be closed.

“There will be no reduction in the numbers of Police Officers or PCSOs as a result of these changes and response times will not be affected.

Despite police reassurances local councillors are unconvinced that frontline services will not be affected.

Gary Grindal, Letchworth GC ward councillor for North Herts District Council, said: “Well the issue of whether it’s the right choice or not is in a few months time when we feel what the impact of the cuts are.

“While I realise and recognise the difficult decision’s that he (Mr Nagler) has to make the full impact won’t be known for a while.”

Savings plans will be agreed and the force’s budget set for 2011/2012 at a Police Authority meeting held on February 16.

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