Ribble Valley hit hard by policing cuts

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SEVEN rural police bases in the Ribble Valley will be sold off by Lancashire Constabulary.

Premises at Whalley, Billington, Gisburn, Hurst Green, Chipping, Ribchester and Newton-in-Bowland will be sold off as part of a budget review to help the constabulary save £42m. over the next four years.

Clitheroe Police Station’s front counter will remain open with new opening hours of 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days-a-week from June 1st, while the front desk at Longridge will close, but the building kept as a base where officers will work from.

There will also continue to be neighbourhood policing officers available at Sabden Village Hall and Mellor Brook Community Centre.

The recommendations have angered council chiefs, who say the Ribble Valley is being overlooked in favour of urban areas.

“We are deeply disappointed the strong representations made by the borough council, parishes and residents over the future of rural police houses have been ignored,” said Ribble Valley Borough Council leader Coun. Michael Ranson.

“Ribble Valley is the third safest place in the UK, thanks to the excellent work undertaken by Ribble Valley Community Safety Partnership, but is being penalised. Seven out of the 12 police rural bases and front counter services earmarked for closure and sale in East Lancashire are in Ribble Valley. It would appear that, once again, the needs of rural areas are being overlooked in favour of urban areas.”

The recommendations follow a three-month public consultation exercise which saw thousands express their views on the constabulary’s original proposals to close 21 of its 38 front counters in Lancashire – reduced to 14 after the review – and sell numerous police bases.

Chief Constable Steve Finnigan said: “Although we have had to make some very difficult decisions in respect of closing some of our public counters and buildings, we have also been able to keep more than we hoped for, and the results of the public consultation have certainly helped us to do this, along with considerations such as value for money and effectiveness, the operational impact of closures, visitor numbers and the availability of alternative venues.”

The force will save just over £386,000 a year through the closure of the 14 front counters, £4.5m. through the sale of 31 other police buildings and around £500,000 a year in the running costs of those buildings.

Mr Finnigan added: “I fully appreciate that where closures are due to occur the public are concerned they will see less of their officers or may find it difficult to contact them. I’d like to reassure them that, despite the cuts, everyone in Lancashire will continue to have their own dedicated neighbourhood policing team and over and above a presence in traditional police buildings, our officers and staff also work out of over 150 local bases, so they will continue to be right in the heart of our communities.”

Chairman of Lancashire’s Police Authority Malcolm Doherty added: “We have to bear in mind it’s people, not buildings, who cut crime and we are determined Lancashire communities will continue to receive good policing services, despite the financial climate.

“Many of the buildings concerned were constructed in a different era, and policing has evolved beyond recognition since then, with different requirements.”

The 14 front counters affected by the recommendations will close on June 1st.