Get involved: send your photos, videos, news & views by texting OXFORD NEWS to 80360 or email us
Police cuts hit stations
POLICE chiefs are cutting public access to police stations by up to 70 per cent across Oxfordshire.
The force yesterday announced its scheme to save £600,000 by heavily reducing the hours its stations would be open in the major towns, with several of them being shut on Mondays.
Some will only be open to the public for four hours a day, while four will only operate for three days a week.
Oxford’s St Aldate’s station will remain the one station open 24 hours a day, but the hours the front reception is open at the city’s other base in Cowley are being cut by almost 50 per cent.
Wallingford, though, is the most severely hit. The Reading Road station has been open from 9.30am-5.30pm, Monday to Friday, but from July that will fall to 10am-2pm Tuesday to Thursday, a cut of 70 per cent.
People wanting to see police in Witney will be restricted to 9am to 5pm Tuesday to Saturday, a cut of 52 per cent. Bicester, Cowley and Didcot will operate the same hours – cuts of 37.5 per cent, 47 per cent and 33 per cent respectively.
Wantage police station is earmarked for closure when a new station in Grove is built, but in the meantime it will only be open between 10am and 2pm on weekdays, a cut of 58 per cent.
The changes will lead to the loss of four full-time civilian jobs.
Wantage town councillor and retired police officer Eddy Goldsmith said the public was being “short-changed”.
Mr Goldsmith said: “The town council opposed it with a letter to the police. I’m on the Neighbourhood Action Group and we are strongly opposed to it and I believe two county councillors wrote to oppose it too, but they were all ignored.
“If somebody is unfortunate enough to have to produce their driving documents, if they are working during the week they won’t be able to get up to show them.
“I know everyone has got to save money, but this is a terrible thing to do – we are getting a part-time police force.
“A lot of people think it’s disgusting. We’re not getting the service that we’re paying for.”
Assistant Chief Constable Richard Bennett said: “For many years now, front desks have been staffed by civilian police staff, not police officers.
“Front desk opening hours are changing at some stations. But there will be no change to the number of officers patrolling from those stations. Therefore, the same number of police officers will be available to respond to calls so response times will not be affected at all by this measure.”
Thames Valley Police said the new hours came after consulting the public. However, a report on the issue did not show any figures of how many people actually opposed cutting opening times.
Oxford East MP Andrew Smith said: “With the huge cuts the Government is imposing on the police, they face impossibly difficult choices.
“Any reduction in the hours Cowley Police station is open to the public is obviously a bad thing, but if this helps Thames Valley Police keep to its commitment to maintain the number of frontline and community police officers, I think the public will understand, recognising front-line policing as the most important priority.
“I am also concerned for the staff affected, and hope every opportunity of redeployment is explored.”
Abingdon and Banbury stations are not cutting hours.