The Daily Mail: One Police Station Has Closed Every Week Under Labour

Saturday, 15 December, 2007

A Police station has closed every week since Labour came to power in 1997, Government figures reveal.

A total of 550 shut their doors for good over the decade. Of the surviving stations, only one in eight is open round the clock.

They have been replaced by police kiosks, mobile vans and offices in community centres.

The figures emerged two weeks after schoolboy Jack Large was stabbed to death outside an unmanned police station in Essex.

David Ruffley , Tory police spokesman, said station closures undermined confidence in the police.

'It is hardly surprising that the public's fear of crime is high when stations - a very visible police presence in any community - are being shut down at this rate,' he added.

'Fewer police stations in the future mean that police officers will have to travel further to book offenders into custody at a police station that is open.

'No wonder that beat officers spend less that one hour in five on patrol. More closures mean more officers spending more time travelling and even less time on the beat.'

The Government figures, covering March 1997 to March 2006, show a total of 506 station closures. Attempts by MPs to obtain the most uptodate analysis have been blocked by Home Office ministers.

However internal Whitehall figures, given unaudited to the Daily Mail, reveal that a further 44 stations were shut between March 2006 and March 2007 - taking the total to 550.

Mr Ruffley added: 'Given these damning statistics it is a disgrace that the Home Office would only give me these figures from 1997 to

'Last week they said they would not be publishing figures for 2007. This looks like a cover-up to me.'

An estimated 1,750 stations remain, many of them opening 9am to 5pm only.

Police say these hours do not pose a risk to the public because dialling 999 is the best way to obtain a rapid response.

Last December, 43-year- old Stephen Langford died after he was attacked near Henley police station in Oxfordshire.

Although officers were working inside the station, it was closed to the public. By the time they were alerted by a witness to the incident it was too late.

The Government said the closures had been partially offset by the opening of 332 stations since 1997. The net loss comes to 218.

Some of the new stations, however, are multi-million pound divisional headquarters, rather than local stations serving the public. Others are small offices based in community centres or council offices. Supermarkets have also been suggested as future sites.

Norman Brennan, director of the Victims of Crime Trust, said: 'If the police stations were being closed so the public could see more officers and a more visible presence on the streets, that would be understandable.

'But closures in high- crime areas where there is not that visible presence is something different altogether.

'Communities across the country are left living in something which they feel resembles the Bronx.' A Home Office spokesman said last night: 'The Home Office does not have reliable data submitted by forces on the total number of police stations in use.

'The management of the police estate and allocation of resources are matters for each police authority and chief officer, who are responsible for assessing local needs.

'Before station closures or reduced hours are contemplated, surveys are conducted on the public demand for access to police station front counters.

'In addition to traditional police stations in cities, towns and villages many forces have now devised innovative ways of increasing their accessibility to members of the public by using other more modern ways to communicate, such as police shops in high streets, police kiosks and by the use of mobile police stations - particularly in rural areas.'