The Daily Telegraph: One police station closes every month

Monday, 28 September, 2009

Police stations are closing at the rate of one a month, The Daily Telegraph can disclose.

Dozens of stations have been closed in the past three years while only a handful of new ones have opened.

The true number could be almost double the official figures because almost half of police forces failed to provide information on how many stations had opened or closed. Rank and file police leaders said the closures leave the public thinking officers have withdrawn from an area.

Sources at the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) said budget pressures mean the trend is likely to continue.

David Ruffley , the shadow policing minister who obtained the figures, said: "Police stations, a visible police presence in any community, continue to close. While some forces argue that police stations are less necessary because of new technology, the fact remains that the police presence on our streets has decreased under Labour. Beat officers spend less than one hour in five on patrol.''

Figures provided by 12 of the 43 forces in England and Wales showed that 35 stations closed between 2006-07 and 2008-09 - the equivalent of one a month - while 12 new ones opened.

When Labour came to power in 1997 there were 1,976 stations in England and Wales. In 2006, The Daily Telegraph disclosed that 880 police stations had closed since 1992 while 376 new ones had opened - leaving a net loss of more than 500. The current scale of station closures could only be obtained through Freedom of Information requests after the Home Office stopped collating the figures in 2007.

The Home Office has spent more than pounds 1 billion on neighbourhood policing with the aim of bringing officers and local people together. But Simon Reed, the vice-chairman of the Police Federation, said: "Where are these officers supposed to work from if they are closing police stations?

"The perception is that police are withdrawing, that 'they do not work here anymore'. We are no longer providing a service. We are distancing ourselves from the public.''

Kelly Flynn, a spokesman for Victim Support, said the public would be "concerned at what they see as a reduced presence'' but insisted it was a "gross oversimplification'' to correlate the number of stations with the level of service.

"Let's judge the police on their performance, not how many buildings they occupy,'' she said. David Hanson, the policing minister, said: "Alongside modernised facilities, there are 3,600 neighbourhood policing teams across England and Wales who are finding innovative ways to reach the public through mobile police stations and community meetings anywhere from town halls to shopping centres.

"We have also radically cut red tape and invested pounds 80 million in hand-held technology to ensure there are more officers than ever on the beat.''