Posted: Thursday 12th February 2015
In an era of continuing and ever more challenging budget cuts, Derbyshire Constabulary has had to introduce a number of changes to the way they work and this includes the closure of some of our police buildings.
Unsurprisingly, a number of people have contacted me to express their concerns about the planned closure of both police buildings and public enquiry offices.
Although technically the decision regarding the closure of a police station is an operational one which rests with the Chief Constable, we have discussed the plans for change in-depth, and we have reluctantly agreed that it has to be done.
This means that a number of police buildings, many of which are not even open to the public, will be closed over the next five years. Click here to see the buildings due to close along with the proposed timescales.
In addition, out of the 16 public enquiry offices currently open to the public, all but four will close over the 2015/16 financial year. The four that will remain open are: Buxton Divisional HQ; Chesterfield Divisional HQ; Derby Divisional HQ at St Mary’s Wharf; and Pear Tree in Derby.
However, if your local police enquiry office is closing, this doesn’t mean that your local area won’t receive an appropriate policing service. For example:
- The Safer Neighbourhood Policing Teams will continue to operate in their respective areas, spending most of their time out in the community.
- With the growing availability of mobile technology, officers will be able to do some of their “paperwork” while out and about, reducing the need for travel to and from police stations.
- The reactive policing teams will continue to respond to calls for service and incidents when they are needed, regardless of where they are based.
- There may also be local arrangements made in some areas for police teams to share buildings with other locally based public services.
Before any station closes the Chief Constable will share the planned new arrangements with me.
These closures are the result of unprecedented cuts to police budgets over the last few years – cuts which are set to continue in the years to come. This has meant some tough decisions have had to be made to enable the Force to continue providing a high level of service and protect the public while meeting the draconian challenges we have been set by the Government.
To put things in perspective, over the last four years Derbyshire Constabulary has already cut £20m – about 20% - from its budget. Despite this, Government statistics show that crime has continued to fall in Derbyshire, thanks in no small part to officers and staff working harder and the introduction of more efficient ways of delivering services.
However, over the next five years the Derbyshire Police budget will be cut by another £26million. It is difficult to imagine this in context, but for an organisation which spends most of its budget on people it is impossible to make savings on this scale without reducing the number of people.
So, reluctantly, the number of police officers and staff will have to be reduced over the next few years. However we want to keep this reduction to the absolute minimum which means that other methods of saving money have to be considered.
Police buildings cost money to own, to lease, and to run and maintain and it is a fact that not many people visit them. When it comes to the crunch, our people are more important than our buildings – it is they who provide the service and make the organisation what it is. Therefore both the Chief Constable and I would rather close buildings in order to keep as many officers and staff as we can protecting Derbyshire residents and communities.
This also makes sense when you consider that the vast majority of people now contact the police by telephone rather than by going to a police station. In addition, crime is becoming more complex and sophisticated and the national threat to security remains high, so it is more important than ever that we prioritise our resources. By retaining as many people as we can, we can focus on tackling the major risks and threats to Derbyshire and protecting people from harm.
I have also been asked why the public were not consulted about the closures. Often, public consultation is both helpful and meaningful. However, in this instance, the closures have to happen and consulting people over something which they cannot influence is a complete waste of public resources.
An important part of my role is to ensure that the service provided to you is as cost efficient as possible. In these times of shrinking budgets, these closures will enable us to offset some of the effects of our reduced funding so that your money is used as wisely and productively as possible in difficult circumstances.
Please be assured, both the Constabulary and I are firmly focussed on the provision of the best possible policing service and delivering the best value for money for Derbyshire residents, in the most testing of financial circumstance.
Police and Crime Commissioner