“Keep it open” - that’s the hard-hitting message from local politicians calling for the reversal of a proposal to close the front desk at Clitheroe Police Station.
At last Tuesday evening’s Policy and Finance Committee meeting, a motion was proposed by the leader of the council, Coun, Ken Hind, which was passed overwhelmingly by the councillors.
The front counter at Clitheroe Police Station is under threat of closure - despite almost 300 people walking through the doors every month.
Under plans announced by Lancashire Constabulary to save £1.4m., the move includes the closures of Colne and Barnoldswick front counters and reduced opening hours at Burnley and Nelson stations.
Now, local councillors and Ribble Valley MP Nigel Evans are urging Mr Clive Grunshaw, Police and Crime Commissioner for Lancashire Constabulary. to perform a U-turn on his decision and keep the station desks open.
But their request has been criticized by the local Labour party, who is blaming the Conservative government for cuts in the police budget.
Mr David Hinder, Ribble Valley Labour party constituency secretary, said: “Under the Tory government we lost 862 police officers and 400 police support staff, including 96 Police Community Support Officers since 2010 and it has now been revealed that recorded crime has increased in Lancashire.
“Its okay for Nigel Evans to call on Mr Grunshaw to reverse his decision and keep the front counter at Clitheroe Station open, but his hands are tied and he needs to make the cutbacks. The local Labour party is calling for additional funding to provide local people with the police service they deserve.”
Deputy leader of Ribble Valley Borough Council, Coun. Paul Elms, who is also vice chairman of the Police and Crime panel, said: “Clitheroe Police Station has the last remaining front desk in the Ribble Valley following the closure of Longridge. The closure of the front desk at Clitheroe would mean that a resident of one of our outlying areas would have to travel almost an hour to get to a police front desk. This is just not acceptable.
“The residents of the Ribble Valley pay their police precept, just like everyone else. We are seeing the dismantling of policing in the rural areas, and particularly in the Ribble Valley with it losing its CID, its response officers and it’s dedicated management. The front desk is the last straw and I would urge the Commissioner to think again.”
He added: “The council has recently had assurances that the building itself would remain open as a police base from which the council-funded PCSO’s operate.”
Nigel Evans has already tabled a Parliamentary question to Home Secretary Amber Rudd on the issue. He said: “It is absolutely imperative that the public have an open point of contact with the police and I fear this move may cost more than it saves, leading to increasing numbers of 999 calls which could have been resolved by counter staff. It will take the presence of police from our very centre, which will greatly weaken the relationship between the police and citizens. It is a total disgrace.”
Mr Evans has vowed to continue fighting against the changes, along with other North West MPs.