MPs condemn police cuts that will see 12 stations close and 400 jobs go

MPs in the region have condemned the Government cuts that will see 12 stations close in the region

Northumbria Police raid a property on Queen Street in Ashington, Northumberland
Northumbria Police raid a property on Queen Street in Ashington, Northumberland

Twelve police stations are set to be closed as part of major cuts that will also cost more than 400 jobs.

Northumbria Police this week announced a major restructure and rationalisation of its force which will see 200 officer and 230 civilian staff posts sliced from its payroll, along with the closure of police buildings across Tyne and Wear and Northumberland.

It has now also been revealed that under the proposed restructure - which is needed to meet £46m in Government cuts by March 2017 - 25 buildings, including 12 police stations currently open to the public, will close.

The proposed closures include the large Pilgrim Street and Westgate Road stations in Newcastle, Forest Hall and Whitley Bay in North Tyneside, Hebburn in South Tyneside plus Farringdon and Gillbridge Avenue in Sunderland.

A number of stations in Northumberland are also earmarked for closure, including Amble, Blyth, Cramlington, Morpeth and Prudhoe.

Two of the threatened stations are currently open 24 hours a day, eight are open between 9am and 5pm and two stations open from 8am to midnight.

Northumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird has vowed that neighbourhood policing will be protected under the plans and bobbies that had been based at the threatened stations will be relocated to cheaper locations and shared buildings, such as community centre of leisure centre. They will have the same opening hours as their previous homes.

The force has also promised that no stations will close until alternative accommodation has been found for officers.

Meanwhile Chief Constable Sue Sim has vowed to protect the number of frontline uniform officers.

However, MPs have expressed extreme concerns about the plans, which they fear could eventually lead to an increase in crime.

North Tyneside’s Mary Glindon, whose constituency will lose Forest Hall Police Station, has pledged to raise the issue with Home Secretary Theresa May.

She said: “It is disgraceful that the Coalition Government are causing such huge job cuts in Northumbria Police, when the force has already managed massive cuts under the Government’s austerity measures.

“There seems no end to the Prime Minister’s desire to undermine all our public services.

“I fear they are fighting a losing battle with the Tory-led Government. I will support the police in North Tyneside in any way I can and I will make representations to the Home Secretary on behalf of my constituents about the severity of these latest cuts.”

Northumbria Police has already delivered £58m of savings since the start of the Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review in 2010.

To achieve this the force has slashed back-room staff, disbanded specialist teams and merged departments.

Figures released by Policing Minister Damian Green in November showed that Northumbria Police has lost 1,176 members of staff since 2010, making up 17.5% of its workforce.

In the last two years, full-time police officer numbers have dropped from 3,921 in March 2012 to 3,750 in March 2013, a cut of 171.

Blyth MP Ronnie Campbell, who has two stations in his constituency earmarked for closure, believes the force is now running at its bare minimum.

He said: “Any loss of police is a bad thing. I would assume that what we have got is what we need at this moment in time. The police have been scaled down a lot since the old days. There are not as many as there were in the old days. Crime will go up with all these cuts.”

Mrs Sim said the cuts would not affect the force’s ability to continue reducing crime and added that compulsory redundancies would be kept to a minimum.

She said: “Neighbourhood policing will remain the cornerstone of how we deliver service and I remain committed to protecting, as far as possible, the officers and staff who are visible in our communities. This includes 24/7 response and neighbourhood policing teams, including CSO Patrol and the detectives who work in our neighbourhoods.

“In order to make further savings we propose to introduce a new structure by streamlining our area commands from six to three and reducing the number of buildings we work from.

“We will need to reduce police staff posts by approximately 230 across a range of areas by April 2017 but have already identified 80 vacancies and hope to achieve as many as possible through natural turnover.

“The new structure will also allow us to reduce approximately 200 senior management and supervisory police officer roles, again through natural turnover. We will continue to recruit police constables to fill frontline vacancies as they arise.

“Northumbria has an excellent record in reducing crime and disorder and keeping our communities safe and those high standards will continue.”

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