Fury at 'no public' Cromer police station

Cromer's new police station will not have a front counter to deal with public inquiries, it was revealed this week.The news has sparked anger among town councillors who are demanding a reinstatement of the service, and asking Norfolk's top policeman to justify why it was dropped from plans.

Cromer's new police station will not have a front counter to deal with public inquiries, it was revealed this week.

The news has sparked anger among town councillors who are demanding a reinstatement of the service, and asking Norfolk's top policeman to justify why it was dropped from plans.

Police however say the move comes in the light of forecast 'drastic public cuts', lack of public use and the need to make efficiencies.

Workmen are putting the finishing touches to the new station which is due to open in a few weeks' time, further up the Holt Road from the existing one.

But the public inquiry desk is being axed and a long-serving civilian clerk being made redundant, town councillors were told this week.

Councillor Keith Johnson said the downgrading was 'shameful' and called for a strong letter to be sent to the chief constable outlining local concerns.

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Vera Woodcock, herself a former police officer, said people were already angry about the station being moved to the outskirts of town.

Cutting the public office went against the force's stated aims to deliver an excellent service, improve people's confidence and work in partnership.

Mrs Woodcock added: 'The police want to work with the community, but the people at high level seem to have forgotten it, or are too busy filling in boxes for targets and standards.'

Town councillors agreed to ask the chief constable to justify the move, reinstate it, or at least carry out their earlier pledge of providing a contact point in the town centre.

Only last year the plans for the sedum roofed eco-friendly building next to the district council office entrance, was said to include public access.

Local community policeman PC Gary Medler said officers were also surprised by the absence of a public inquiry office, and only realised it was the case when the clerk's redundancy was announced last week.

The clerks not only helped the public, but provided other services which saved time for officers.

An earlier strategy aimed to replace the Cromer and Sheringham stations with a single base at Cromer, coupled with new public contact points for the police in the town centres.

But the latest blueprint says the stations at Sheringham, North Walsham and Stalham are due to be replaced between 2010 and 2012, with Holt being retained in its existing premises.

Last week Police Federation officials, representing rank and file officers, attacked moves to cut public opening hours of those stations with inquiry desks - including Sheringham, which from next month will close on weekends and Mondays, and only operate 4� hours on the days it is open.

Norfolk Police confirmed the new Cromer station would not have a public inquiry office, when it opened in late October or early November.

A statement went on to say they could not afford to keep offices open when no-one used them, and in the face of impending public spending cuts.

A spokesman said people preferred to use the telephone and the rationalising of counter facilities, where they were an unnecessary expense was a 'sensible way forward' which had followed extensive public consultation.

Police also stressed they had a mobile police station touring the area, enabling people to contact their local officers. It is at the White Horse pub car park in East Runton from 1-3pm on September 25, the Hurn at West Runton from 1-3pm on October 5, and back at the White Horse from 3-5pm on October 24.

The non emergency contact number for the police 0845 456 4567, our website www.norfolk.police.uk

Norfolk Police's statement in full:

'Drastic public cuts are on the way and we can't afford to keep offices available when no one uses them - that doesn't make economic sense.

'Norfolk Constabulary is a 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week service with officers and staff rostered to provide fast response services when needed. Where counter facilities are little-used, for instance at particular times of the day or on particular days, we are rationalising when they are available to ensure best use of our counter staff.

'This is a sensible way forward when we have limited resources that we must use to best effect. The decision has been taken after extensive consultation with the public through customer surveys and analysis of footfalls through police stations.

'We recognise that the usual style of Public Enquiry Offices at the smaller stations, where the number of visitors is small, is an unnecessary expense and what is needed is a professional and ready welcome for callers and an office or private space where they can discuss their concerns with a member of staff.'

When the Cromer station was finished, police said they would publish full details of how they could be contacted in person via police stations.

The spokesman added: 'It is a fact that today most people choose to telephone. Part of our drive to continually improve our service to customers involves the initiative to make planned appointments to see people at a time and place of their choosing.'

What do you think? Write to North Norfolk News deputy editor Terry Redhead at Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich, NR1 1RE or e-mail terry.redhead@archant.co.uk

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