Mayor describes police handling of Swaffham office closure plan as ‘insulting’

Swaffham Police Station ANL-150318-201617009

Swaffham Police Station ANL-150318-201617009

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The mayor of Swaffham has branded the lack of consultation over plans to close the public office at the town’s police station as “insulting”.

The site, at the corner of West Acre Road and Spinners Lane, is one of four in Norfolk which are set to be affected by the moves.

Talks have been held between community leaders and senior officers on the issue and ways in which the impact of the closure could be reduced and police chiefs insist they did discuss the issue with community leaders.

But, at last Wednesday’s town council meeting, clerk Richard Bishop reported that, despite criticism of the way the decision was made, no public consultation could take place because of the Norfolk force’s obligations to staff whose jobs may be at risk as a result of the proposals.

However, mayor Shirley Matthews said she still would have expected community representatives to be notified and asked for their views of the plans, adding: “It was a bit insulting.”

The council was told that the office closure is due to come into force on July 1, though police chiefs say no firm dates have yet been confirmed.

The meeting also heard that ideas such as regular drop-in events are being considered as means of reducing the impact of the closure.

Police chiefs have maintained that the closure is necessary because of the small numbers of people using the office, which they say are among the lowest in the county.

A spokesman said: “We acknowledge the importance of keeping communities informed and every effort was made to inform and engage with those communities affected of the operational decision.

“We are not withdrawing from Swaffham. This is about police changing the way we work to make sure we have people in the right places to meet demand where it is greatest.”

But critics argue that, following police commissioner Stephen Bett’s decision to raise the force’s portion of council tax, the public will be paying more for a reduced service.

Senior officers will be invited to address the annual town assembly next month.

However, some councillors called for a special public meeting to take place for residents as well as community representatives to voice their opinions.