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West Mercia's Police and Crime Commissioner Bill Longmore fends off calls to sell Hindlip Hall HQ instead of closing police bases
COMMUNITIES across south Worcestershire have hit out at police cuts - with some calling it an “open invitation to criminality” and even suggesting Hindlip Hall HQ should be sold instead.
The cull of up to 31 bases across the West Mercia Police force area has been described as “disappointing” by campaigners.
More details emerged today – with police chiefs revealing that by 2015 the control room at Hindlip could be handling calls for the whole of West Mercia, as well as for Warwickshire.
Bosses are consulting over closing the control room at Shrewsbury, and also say the Warwickshire control room could shut at some point, leaving Hindlip as the one call base for both forces.
In terms of other cuts 11 police bases are to close completely, while either 19 or 20 additional sites will shut and be replaced by alternatives.
Councillor Richard Udall, who represents St John’s, said: “This is policing on the cheap - if these buildings weren’t needed they would never have been opened in the first place.
“It’s an open invitation to criminality.”
Councillor Jabba Riaz, the city council’s cabinet member for safer and stronger communities, said: “It's disappointing - that’s the most appropriate word I can use to describe it.”
In Worcester, the cuts include the shop front base in Cranham Drive, Warndon, which will be relocated to a yet-to-be-decided venue, and the office at the Guildhall will close completely.
Buildings in Droitwich, Pershore, Stourport and Tenbury Wells will relocate, while sites in Bewdley, Wythall and Broadway will shut completely.
The 24/7 999 call response service in Malvern will be handled from Worcester or Evesham.
Other community leaders say they are determined to strive for the best possible outcome despite the news.
Councillor Jo Hodges, who represents Warndon, said: “It’s disappointing because the Cranham Drive shop front is so centrally based - they need to find somewhere else which means they keep their presence.”
She said one good alternative could be relocating to the community centre.
Police and crime commissioner Bill Longmore was locked in meetings with Worcestershire’s MPs this afternoon spelling out the changes.
He has pledged to make sure the county still gets 24-hour-a-day protection, and that the visible police patrols will not change despite the closures.
“The measures we have put in place will protect the front line, and that is what is most important, having that presence,” he said.
Mr Walker said: “The patrols must stay as they are, that is a must.”
Mid-Worcestershire MP Peter Luff said he was personally confident Droitwich would come out of it ok.
He said: "I think they've given a lot of thought to this - my inclination is that it will not lead to a diminishing quality of service in Droitwich.
"I've been told the face-to-face service will be the same at the new location they find.
"Although I don't welcome the changes, I do think they've thought it through."
West Worcestershire MP Harriett Baldwin said she wanted response times to be "as least as fast as now" and has urged people to have their say.
Of the 19 or 20 sites up for relocation, some are functioning police stations while others are drop-in centres or offices closed to the public.
The plan is to find private or public sector partners to share facilities with.
As your Worcester News reported today, two public consultations will be taking place to get public feedback on it.
No sites set for relocation will close until alternatives are ready to open, and no firm dates are set in stone as of yet.
The closures will take place between now and 2015, aimed at saving £1.5 million.
Bosses say the saving is the equivalent of 30 constables or 50 PCSOs.
CALLS FOR HINDLIP HALL TO BE SOLD
CALLS are being made for the force to sell its plush Hindlip Hall HQ in a bid to avoid shutting down other buildings.
Councillor Peter McDonald, the leader of Worcestershire County Council’s Labour group, said he was “shocked” at the changes.
“Over the last few decades we have made leaps and bounds in policing and at the moment, it feels like we are taking a big step backwards,” he said.
“They’ve spent millions on Hindlip when in my view, the security of this county is far more important than any HQ.
“Some of that money could have been spent on the sharp end. It’s got to be sold off.”
Others said they would be against any review of the asset, which dates back to the 1820s and had more than £3 million spent on it in 2011 when a new access road was put in.
The venue serves as the strategic heart of the force and is home to vital functions like the dogs unit, CID, forensics and senior management.
Councillor Paul Middlebrough, leader of Wychavon District Council and chairman of the police and crime panel, said: “It’s a great economic benefit to Wychavon and I would not be in favour of any change there - I’d oppose any moves to not use it as the base.”
West Mercia Police say a sale of the site is not feasible given the costs and complexity of either breaking up the existing functions and housing them elsewhere, or moving it all to another location.
Mr Longmore said: "As part of our long term strategy, we will be looking at all aspects of the police estate in West Mercia, but there are no plans on the table at the moment regarding the future of Hindlip Hall."
A spokesman for West Mercia Police said: "Hindlip Park is a well developed site that houses a number of vital departments and services; around 950 officers and staff currently work there.
"As well as a wide range of support, training and admin services, the site houses specialist teams including CID, force operations and the control room, all in purpose-built facilities.
"The use of Hindlip Park, along with all the force's properties, will continue to be reviewed to make sure it is providing the best value for money possible."