Accrington’s new town centre police station front counter could be at risk of closure – just months after a £500,000 move.
Lancashire’s Police and Crime Commissioner has confirmed that all county front counters, including Accrington and Great Harwood, are being reviewed as part of plans to make a further £18 million in cuts by 2020.
Bosses say no decision has been made but a ‘proposal will be developed for public consultation’.
If the public-facing counters on Broadway, Accrington and Great Harwood were to close, residents would then have to travel to the nearest front counter in Whitebirk to speak face to face to officers or present documents.
The Observer has reported in recent weeks how residents and businesses are becoming increasingly concerned over a rise in burglaries, shoplifting and gun crime.
Police chiefs insist any buildings affected would stay open as ‘stations’, as officers would still use them as a base even if the public counter is shut.
Accrington’s new town centre front counter opened in September 2016, making it more accessible to residents, and councillor Tony Dobson has warned there would be a ‘major outcry’ if it closes.
He said: “Wherever possible, front facing customer service should be maintained and enhanced like officers on the ground and the ability to contact police as and when needed.”
Rachel Baines, Lancashire branch chair of the Police Federation, said the force has lost more than 900 police officers and 500 staff in recent years and further budget cuts mean the ‘closure of front counters, less police officers and less visibility’.
She said: “To me the police stations are iconic in the community for people to connect with and gives them a perception and feeling of safety.
“It’s very sad because quite often front counters are the first face-to-face contact they ever have with the police and it would be a shame to lose that.”
Council leader Miles Parkinson said the continued police funding cuts are ‘extremely worrying’ and it was ‘important’ for Hyndburn’s police counters to remain open.
He said: “It’s a major concern and people need to have the ability to go into an environment where they can speak to the police.
“It was very important that the new station was opened to engage with the public and it’s important it remains there.”
Hyndburn MP Graham Jones said the government’s police cuts have gone ‘too far’ but believes Accrington’s police counter will stay ‘unless something dramatic changes’.
'No change to way area is policed'
Police bosses say no decisions have yet been reached on whether to close police counters in Hyndburn.
A Lancashire Police and Crime Commissioner spokesperson said: “The Commissioner and the Constabulary continue to find ways to deliver savings needed to meet their reduced funding.
“By the end of this financial year £76 million of savings will have been delivered and work is continuing to find an additional £18m needed by 2020.
“As part of this services are being reviewed to see if they provide value for money.
"This includes reviewing front counters, analysing their use and examining if services could be delivered differently in some areas.
“No decisions have been made and a proposal will be developed for public consultation.
“The review will not change the way areas are policed and will not involve any closure of police stations.”
In 2011 the old Accrington police station at Spring Gardens avoided the axe as part of £42 million Lancashire-wide cuts.
The Great Harwood front counter was originally earmarked for closure but later won a reprieve to stay open on reduced opening hours.