OPENING hours at under-used rural police stations across the Humberside Police force area could be slashed by up to half.
Six stations in Cottingham, Pocklington, Hornsea, Driffield, Withernsea and Hedon, could see their hours reduced, with open times in Cottingham and Pocklington potentially being halved.
The proposal, designed to save £150,000, has not yet had the approval of chief constable Tim Hollis and police admit the proposals are “difficult territory”, with local ward councillors already having voiced concerns.
East Riding councillor Symon Fraser, who represents the Driffield area, said: “We would be deeply concerned about any further erosion of policing services to Driffield, bearing in mind that it serves a large rural area. These are all people who pay their local precept and expect the level of service they deserve.”
Assistant chief officer (support) Phil Goatley said they were trying to match supply with demand: “At some of the rural police stations, particularly where there isn’t a custody facility, we see a small handful of people outside pre-arranged appointments.”
Mr Goatley said a survey looking at demand was done in 2008, but he asked for re-survey last year for more up-to-date information:
“One of the things we have looked at is how technology will change the provision of services. You may choose to put less into front counter services so you can put more into the development of social media.
“Some of our most active communicators are young people, it is their default means of communication.”
Mr Goatley admitted the proposals, which have yet to go through the internal decision-making process, were contentious and that face-to-face and telephone communication was still the preferred choice. He said: “We well recognise the public and political sensitivity, which is why we will go through it in a measured and proportionate way.”
Driffield police station, which was widely rumoured to be closing until recently, is currently open from 9am to 5pm, six days a week and could reduce to four hours a day Monday to Friday, staying the same on Saturdays – a total of 20 hours less.
Coun Felicity Temple said she thought a decision would be premature before a crime commissioner was elected: “I understand the need for various agencies to be looking at ways to cut their budgets because of the economic climate but I would challenge anything that meant Driffield residents got less protection from the police.”
In Cottingham the station is already closed on Friday and at the weekends, but is open 9am to 2pm to Monday to Thursday. The proposals would see it open only on Monday and Thursday and closed for the rest of the week. Cottingham councillor Ros Jump said: “It’s getting to the stage why do they bother if it’s reduced much more?”
Candidate for commissioner Paul Davison, a former senior police officer, said: “Policing is a contact sport – it is not by telephone, e-mail or Twitter. I would support opening them for longer – never mind cutting hours. If your mindset is putting the public first then you find a way.”