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Police Stations

Volume 459: debated on Monday 30 April 2007

The management of the police estate and the allocation of resources are matters for each chief officer and the local police authority responsible for assessing needs in each locality.

West Yorkshire police has been closing police stations to the public, not because it wants to or it thinks that that is a good idea, but because it is underfunded to the tune of £15 million a year under the needs-based funding formula that the Home Office set. Shipley constituency now has no police station open to the public at any time of the day. Does the Minister not agree that if there is to be effective neighbourhood policing, there must be neighbourhood police stations that are accessible to the public?

The hon. Gentleman’s starting premise is entirely wrong. West Yorkshire police are closing some access to the public at some stations, as part of a reconfiguration based on their assessment of local needs, and of the most effective way to police the entire west Yorkshire area. I wish to make it clear that no police station in west Yorkshire will be closed as a result of such changes. Patrol and neighbourhood police officers will continue to be based at the same stations serving local communities. A local resident in west Yorkshire recently said that he felt that in his town the public would be better served if there were not a public helpdesk, that having a non-emergency contact point as suggested by West Yorkshire police would be a viable alternative, that in many cases pedestrians and elderly people believed that police stations were not in the appropriate locations, and that the posturing and overreaction to the proposals—

When I served on the police parliamentary scheme in Greater Manchester I visited some disgraceful police stations that were built during the Victorian period. I congratulate the Government on supplying many Greater Manchester police forces with brand-new police stations, including one in my Bolton constituency. I invite my hon. Friend to come to Bolton to see the new headquarters, which is superb.

I have previously tried to arrange such a visit, so of course I will come to Bolton to see how Greater Manchester police are responding to the policing needs of Greater Manchester’s communities. It is not for me to tell any local authority how it should configure its policing, and as I said, I agree with those who suggest—as the individual to whom I referred earlier did—that posturing and overreaction to proposals does not help at all: that individual was a Conservative candidate in west Yorkshire.

After 10 years, the Government must answer for their record. More than 500 police stations have closed, only one in eight stations is now open for 24 hours, one third of all forces have no 24-hour stations at all, the 101 national non-emergency number has been shelved and the promised 8,000 community support officers have been cut. That is at least two manifesto commitments broken. Is this what the Home Secretary meant yesterday when he said that he intended to build better relationships between the police and the communities that they serve?

I can only repeat what we have said many times at this Dispatch Box: there are record numbers of police officers, and in the past 10 years there have been record levels of resources. I repeat: it is not for the Home Office to tell each and every authority up and down the country how best to police their local areas by telling them what police stations should and should not be open. My hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, South-East (Dr. Iddon) made the entirely fair point that we are a good way through the refurbishment and renewal of the police station element of the police estate—after 19 years of sheer and utter neglect under the last Government.