Police station opening hours could be slashed under reforms

HASTINGS police station could have its opening hours slashed almost in half as part of Sussex Police’s ongoing costcutting drive.

Under initial plans, the Bohemia Road station’s front office which is currently open between 8am and midnight seven days a week would only open between 9am and 8pm Monday to Saturday.

This would cut the opening time from 112 hours a week to 66, but Carole Shaves MBE, deputy chairman of the Sussex Police Authority and one of the members who represents Hastings expressed her concern.

She said: “I do think we need to look again at some of the hours. Hastings has a large area of social depravation and I am concerned about the hours proposed there. Attached to Hastings police station is a custody suite and I think it is a real risk not to have two or three hours on a Sunday. The suite gets quite full and when people are released I think they should be released through the front office and people can collect them from there. If they are not, there is a likelihood of them congregating in the back yard of the police station where there is no real security.”

Robin Merrett of Sussex Police said the changes across the county could save the force £1.8 million a year. He said: “These new hours are quite radical and people will have to put their own spin on things. The case is not closed on these hours - we will still listen to local people to make sure we get these hours right.”

The force needs to find £52 million worth of savings over the next four years because of the government cuts and has carried out “extensive research” into footfall at various stations. Hastings’ opening hours would be the joint second longest in the county, the same as places like Crawley and Chichester with only the John Street station in Brighton enjoying longer hours. Other stations such as nearby Rye and Battle would see their hours cut to just a few hours a week under the plans.

It is hoped that better use of appointments and online services will allow front offices to cut their opening hours, and Chief Constable Martin Richards said: “The regular charge levelled at me is how can you possibly state that you can make these savings and at the same time improve services. I think this paper once implemented and fulfilled by way of a plan is doing exactly that.”

Further consultation will now take place before final decisions are made on the police station’s hours. Some stations could still be closed or moved into community facilities such as libraries but Hastings is not thought to be at risk of being shut.

--Cllr Godfrey Daniel has urged Sussex Police not to lose focus on the war on drugs as the cuts continue to bite. Sussex Police Authority has been discussing the force’s priorities for the next 12 months and although burglary, anti-social-behaviour and road safety are among the specific crimes the public have said they want to see more action taken against, Cllr Daniel said illegal substances still had a huge impact on communities. He said: “I think one of the biggest scourges of our society is drugs. I think we should take this with a pinch of salt - we are not doing Strictly Come Dancing, we are doing a very serious job to improve our society.”

In his role as a magistrate he said that he found drugs to be the root cause of a “huge percentage” of crimes and urged the force “not to underestimate” the problems drugs cause.