Local Labour Party Councillors in Bloxwich and Blakenall Heath have been campaigning against recently announced proposals to slash the opening hours of Bloxwich Police Station from January 2012.
With 12 stations across the West Midlands announced as candidates for possible changes to front office opening, Bloxwich is the only police station in Walsall Metropolitan Borough slated for a cut in hours, from 24 hours per day, seven days a week, to just 10am-6pm, and unhappy Bloxwich residents are already up in arms over the proposals.
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.
Labour Councillors opposing the move on behalf of the people of Bloxwich and district have so far collected more than 2,000 signatures, with many more expected, in a petition calling for a re-think on the highly controversial move.
There has been a police station in Bloxwich since 1861. The current Bloxwich Police Station in Elmore Green Road is the most modern in the borough, and was formally opened by Princess Anne, the Princess Royal, on 26 September 2002 , replacing the previous station housed in the historic Bloxwich Public Buildings (built 1882) which were demolished to make way for the new station.
Police claim that under the new arrangements, 99% of households will never be more than four miles from a 24/7 opening police station across the region – cold comfort for residents, especially on local housing estates, who fear what the hours of darkness, when crimes like burglary and anti-social behaviour in particular are most likely, may bring if the Bloxwich station’s front office shuts its doors against them between 6pm – 10am every night.
They also question whether these cuts may just be the tip of the iceberg, especially at a time when plans are being laid for the expensive rebuilding of Walsall borough’s main police station in Green Lane.
Research shows, say West Midlands Police, that the main method of contact for members of the public is over the ‘phone. On average the force handles over 5,000 phone calls each day from the public and over 2,000 emails per month are received by the force’s “Contact us” email account alone. They also say that, in those stations where the changes are being proposed, on average two people visited the front offices outside of core hours. A large number of those were solicitors visiting the custody facility.
However this generalised data has been partly refuted in Bloxwich by the Walsall Labour Group on Walsall Council, who say that the overnight closure of Bloxwich Police Station has been proposed despite police acknowledging that on average over 30 people visit the station each night.
Police insist however that cuts to opening hours will not impact on the way the force works within its local communities. Officers will continue to work within communities, patrol neighbourhoods and work with local people and partners to identify and solve issues of concern.
A detailed report is due to go to the Police Authority for their consideration and will be presented at their next meeting on Thursday 1 December. This will be available on the Police Authority website on Thursday 24 November: www.west-midlands-pa.gov.uk . Police Authority members will consider the proposal and the consultation process.
Residents are invited to give their views via an online questionnaire on the force’s website www.west-midlands.police.uk on how West Midlands Police will provide services in the future. People can also email their views via firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to West Midlands Police, Lloyd House, Colmore Circus, Queensway, B4 6NQ.