RESIDENTS and councillors from across the political spectrum have teamed up to fight the closure of an Oxford police office.

Campaigners say the closure of Marston and Northway Neighbourhood Police Office will increase the risk of crime in the area and leave locals feeling less safe – all to save a 'tiny' £17,000 a year.

They have handed Thames Valley Police a letter signed by community groups, councillors and residents, urging the force to reverse its decision.

Labour councillor for Headington Hill and Northway Nigel Chapman, who signed the letter, said: “This is a tiny number in the overall budget of Thames Valley Police.

"When police are not in the community, they won’t be able to stop crime.

"When there’s no base there’s nowhere to work from and they won’t be so visible: this closure sends a strong signal which is why we are trying to put pressure on police to change their minds."

He added: "Closing the neighbourhood police office is not the right signal to send."

Liberal Democrat city councillor Altaf Khan agreed: "We want to try and keep this office open, and we believe that £17,000 is well worth the funding.

"This is not a big amount, and it’s in everybody’s interest to have a safer area.

"There are 14,000 registered voters in the area and more than 30,000 lives."

The plan to permanently close the office, opened in 2010, only came to light in October after locals contacted the Oxford Mail saying the shutters had been down for weeks.

When the Oxford Mail contacted Thames Valley Police, the force revealed it planned to close the unit on Westlands Drive indefinitely in May 2019, but said it would stay in use until then.

Force spokesman James Williams also told this paper that the office was not actually open to the public, despite residents and councillors telling the paper they had walked in freely when the shutters were open.

Now Inspector Chris Simpson, head of the force's Neighbourhood Policing Team, has confirmed that locals did indeed walk in to report problems and seek help.

Speaking to the Oxford Mail at the office, he said: "There are teams that work here and people can come in and out... it is open when the staff are in but they work shifts, not 9am to 5pm, because they are on rotation."

City councillor Mark Lygo, who also attended the meeting with the Mail, confirmed: "During our neighbourhood meeting last week, around four or five people came to chat to police."

Thames Valley Police press office said of the closure that ‘bricks and mortar have little to do with policing’.

But locals say the office reassures residents and provides a visible deterrent to criminals.

Joe McManners, city councillor for Northway and Headington Hill, said: "The office is local, you get to know the officers and it’s preventing crime."

According to the Police UK crime map, in August this year 214 crimes were reported in north east Oxford.

Churchill ward councillor Mr Lygo added: “Once it’s gone it won’t be replaced.

“People will lose faith and vulnerable people will not have that contact.”

Peter West of Headington and Marston Neighbourhood Forum, who penned the letter, said: "The example they are setting by shutting the office down is very poor.

"When I was there the other day, there was a little old lady saying that some kids were up to something, and a police officer went over.

"Our concern is that if they are four miles away, they can’t do anything about it."

On Wednesday, two PCSOs joined the Oxford Mail's photo call at the office with the campaigners.

Oxford Mail:

At this meeting, Insp Simpson said he and his team wanted to do everything they could to work with the community.

He went on: “Cuts have been significant, and the bottom line is we have to make significant savings on top of what we have over the last three or four years.

“We are obliged to save, but this force has given commitment to neighbourhood policing – it’s that key interface with the communities.

“We have finite resources and we focus them on where there is the highest demand.

“We need to stop the demand, before it grows as well."

It is understood that Thames Valley Police rents the office for £17,000.

Locals have asked police if they could have an office at a community centre, like the one at Rose Hill Community Centre, but the force has not given any indication this is likely.

A spokesperson at Thames Valley Police said: “In the last eight years, a number of measures have been put in place by Thames Valley Police to reduce estate costs while being committed to protecting the frontline.

“A programme of reviewing and identifying properties for disposal has been in place since 2010. The aim is to have a leaner, fit for purpose, lower cost and lower carbon footprint estate with greater emphasis on agile working.

“We continue to work with partners to explore opportunities for co-location, other cost reductions or service delivery initiatives.

“However, bricks and mortar has little to do with policing: we want to ensure that neighbourhood officers spend more time in the community.

“Officers are more mobile in their work which has partly been enabled by the provision of smart phones and laptops enabling remote working. “We reassure the public we are by no means withdrawing from our communities and the availability and visibility of police officers to attend incidents is not affected by these changes.”