Hopes of avoiding swingeing cuts to the opening hours of Bloxwich Police Station have been dashed in a decision announced this week, but thanks to local protests those cuts, serious as they are, are now not quite as bad as they might have been.
Proposals for the cuts to the station’s front desk opening were first put forward by West Midlands Police last November in a lengthy consultation process covering 12 stations across the West Midlands. Oddly Bloxwich, which is the most modern police station in Walsall, is the only station in the borough to have its opening hours slashed.
The alterations to opening times come when the West Midlands force is being subjected to severe Coalition government cuts, meaning it has to save £126 million over a four year period, and management feels the need to review and rationalise its services as part of a “modernisation” programme.
The original plan put forward was to reduce opening times for the station from 24 hours per day, seven days a week, to just 10am-6pm daily, but following an outcry from angry Bloxwich residents and a 4,000 signature petition organised by local Labour councillors working with Walsall North Labour MP David Winnick, all of whom were up in arms over the reduction in service, police chiefs based in Birmingham have partially relented, and opening hours have instead been cut down to 8am – 10pm from 24 hours a day.
Needless to say, local people and traders are still not satisfied, with campaigners publicly welcoming the partial reprieve but saying they will still push for the cuts to be reduced further.
Mr Winnick has been quoted in this week’s Walsall Chronicle newspaper as saying “Of course we do welcome this change in the hours of closure. There has been very strong representation, first and foremost from residents, Bloxwich councillors and myself.”
He went on: “The suggestion that Bloxwich station will open until 10pm is some progress and an improvement on what was originally intended. However I still remain dissatisfied on behalf of my constituents. It is not just a matter of being able to go to the police station during the night, it’s the feeling of security of being able to contact Bloxwich Police Station… I would still hope further consideration can be given to extending the hours there.”
Fellow campaigner Julie Fitzpatrick, a Labour councillor for Bloxwich East, also said in the Chronicle: “We wanted to keep the station open all the time, that’s what the aim was and people were queuing up to sign the petition. But anything is an improvement on what they were putting forward. If we got it open more hours then we have achieved something.”
Police claim the changes will allow some officers to return to visible policing. Skeptical Bloxwich people are less than impressed.
For background, see our previous stories under the category ‘Police’.