Police cuts spark fears for future

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GARSTANG residents could be facing a 20-mile round trip to visit a police station if Lancashire Constabulary bosses decide to close the Garstang station’s enquiry desk.

Under dramatic new cost-cutting plans announced this week, Garstang police station WILL be retained – but police chiefs say they have yet to decide whether to keep the public enquiry desk open.

The county-wide cuts will also see the operational base at Bowgreave and the police house at Cabus being sold off, along with the former Preesall station, Hambleton police house and Cockerham police house.

Poulton’s police station will also be closed and sold, as will Broughton’s police office and that of Fulwood, from where the north Preston neighbourhood policing team covers Broughton, Barton, Whitechapel, Inglewhite and also Beacon Fell.

The cull is aimed at saving £1m through the closure of front counters, with one-off sales expected to bring in another £4m.

If the Garstang front counter is closed following a further review, it would mean local residents facing a round trip of 20 miles to visit their nearest station, in either Preston of Lancaster. Although a high percentage of crimes are now reported over the phone, enquiry desks are still needed as a contact point – for motorists required to produce documents for fixed penalty notices, members of the public handing in lost property, or offenders asked to report in for bail conditions.

Assistant Chief Constable Andy Cooke said: “The constabulary recognises that the closure of any front counter, or indeed any police premise, is iconic for the public and will cause concern.

“This is why it has looked closely at visitor numbers in particular to identify those which are used the most in order to limit the impact to a potentially smaller number of people.”

The question mark over the future of the Garstang desk follows an opening hours cut last year following a staff re-structure.

The desk is currently open on weekdays, except Wednesday, and Saturday 9am-12noon and 12.45pm-5pm.

A review carried out by the force found 81% of the total footfall of visitors across the county is catered for by just 17 of the front counters. Compared with other stations, the footfall for the Garstang station is significantly lower with an average 1.7 visitors an hour.

At nearby Longridge Station the desk has an even lower number of 1.5 visitors, and has been recommended for closure.

Assistant Chief Constable Andy Cooke, added: “We believe that by closing the front desks which are currently underused and offering a standardised service in all of the remaining front counters will result in an improvement on the current position, which sees people being sent from one counter to another depending on the services they need to access.”

However, police chiefs say the plans are ‘not a done deal’ and final decisions will not be made until a public consultation is completed.

The three-month review, which will allow people to air their views, will begin next month.

A police spokesperson said results of the consultation would be expected around late Autumn.

Garstang Sergeant Danielle Freaney encouraged Garstang residents to make their feelings known over the plans to help present a clear picture ahead of final decisions being made.

She said: “I would encourage anybody to report their concerns and support the public consultation through various methods such as local PACT meetings.

“Any worries or important information we can then feed through to bosses to help give them a clear picture of community issues.”