Swaffham police station to lose public inquiry office

Ian Sherwood outside St Paul's Cathedral yesterday for LadyThatcher's funeral procession and the coffin on the gun carriage. ENGANL00120130418114811
Ian Sherwood outside St Paul's Cathedral yesterday for LadyThatcher's funeral procession and the coffin on the gun carriage. ENGANL00120130418114811
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The impending closure of the Public Enquiry Office (PEO) at Swaffham Police Station will have no affect on policing, according to Chief Supt Nick Davison.

Swaffham is one of four Norfolk police stations set to lose its PEO by July at the latest, but with many people preferring to use telephone or online services rather than pop into the police station, Chief Supt Davison is confident the public have nothing to worry about.

He said: “Public perception is very important, which is why we have taken a year to come to this decision.

“Difficult times lead to difficult decisions and the number of people coming into the PEO at Swaffham, and the other three that are closing, is low.

“On average we get around one to three people coming into the PEO at Swaffham per day.

“There will still be a police presence there, we are just changing the way people can contact us.”

The cuts are part of wide-ranging plans to meet Government spending cuts.

Norfolk Constabulary remains on track to deliver the bulk of the £20 million savings required by 2018, but it is estimated an additional £5million will need to be found by 2020.

PEOs across the county will have reduced or changed hours and those at Swaffham, Attleborough, Gorleston and Diss will close.

The changes, which will generate savings of more than £360,000, follow a review which showed people physically calling at police stations continues to fall.

Stations affected by PEO closure will continue to be used as operational police bases with plans put in place to ensure local communities still have access to local officers.

Temporary Assistant Chief Constable Nick Dean, who leads on local policing services, said: “Cuts to the police budget mean we have to make some difficult decisions in order to maintain visibility and maximize front line officer numbers. This is the reality of our situation.

“It is a fact that fewer people now pop into a police station, preferring instead to use telephone or online services.

“The front counters earmarked for closure see some of the lowest footfall in the county. It will not affect our commitment to policing in the affected areas.”

Swaffham PEO is currently manned from 9am-5pm Monday to Friday, but the yellow phone located outside will remain in place and can be used 24 hours a day, taking callers through to another open PEO or the police control room.

The PEO closures will lead to 13 redundancies across the county.

The decision to close the front counter serving the public at Swaffham police station was met with fury by the town’s Breckland councillor Ian Sherwood.

He said it was particularly galling coming on the day that Stephen Bett, Norfolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), increased his share of the council tax bill by two per cent.

Mr Sherwood said: “There has been no public consultation on the closure of the Swaffham Police Station PEO, why does the PCC not see fit to engage with the local communities?

“So local residents pay more for less of a service, last month the PCC wrote to Swaffham Town Council to ask them to pay part of the cost for the PCSOs, this would have been double taxation for local residents, it’s the PPC’s job to provide PCSOs not the local town or parish council.

“Norfolk residents already pay £38.70 more each year than Suffolk for their Police, Norfolk ’s PCC needs to work harder to address his budget.

“Every local resident I speak with tells me they want to keep council tax down, we are being let down by Norfolk’s PCC.”