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Police station hours under threat

PUBLISHED: 10:24 21 May 2010 | UPDATED: 09:43 01 August 2010

BECCLES police station will have its opening hours slashed by a third if new proposals under consideration by Suffolk Constabulary are adopted.

The county police authority is considering proposals to save around £200,000 over the next three years by reducing the total opening hours for public access to police stations or customer service points from 1,095 hours a week to 842 hours.

BECCLES police station will have its opening hours slashed by a third if new proposals under consideration by Suffolk Constabulary are adopted.

The county police authority is considering proposals to save around £200,000 over the next three years by reducing the total opening hours for public access to police stations or customer service points from 1,095 hours a week to 842 hours.

Although no stations will close, four stations, including Beccles and Mildenhall, would have their opening hours cut to 56 hours a week from 84.

However some of the busier stations, including Lowestoft and Halesworth, would see their opening times extended, with Halesworth open for an extra 16 hours a week and another four hours being provided in Lowestoft.

Beccles currently opens from 8am to 8pm every day, but would instead open for eight hours a day Monday to Friday and from 9am to 5pm Saturday and Sunday - a reduction of 28 hours across the week.

Beccles mayor Jack Walmsley said: “I hadn't heard about these plans, but while I guess all of us would like to have a police officer in the back yard at all times, I am aware that changes in modern technology have led to changes in these sorts of practices.

“It might be regrettable but this is the way the world has gone, and if it means there are different ways for people to access the help they need then I suppose these changes suit modern lifestyles.”

The plans will be discussed by the police authority at its meeting on Friday. The proposed new opening hours have been drawn up using recent visitor figures and data showing which days and times each station is busiest.

The changes would mean that Lowestoft police station would be open from 8am to 8pm every day, and Halesworth would open for eight hours a day in the week at from 9am to 1pm on Saturday and Sunday.

Mildenhall would open for the same hours as Beccles, and Brandon would open for two hours on four days in the week.

Assistant chief constable Gary Kitching said that changes are being made to ensure consistency around the county.

He said: “Another driving force is that the constabulary is facing growing financial pressures. To enable the constabulary to provide the best value for money for its taxpayers and to provide a service that is efficient and effective, a programme of work is under way as part of the strategic change programme to examine how we can make financial efficiencies in order to reinvest and protect our frontline services.”

A report to the meeting said that public surveys had shown that many people prefer to contact the police by telephone rather than by visiting a station. The survey also said that 66pc of people do not mind about opening hours as long as officers are on patrol, while 19pc want their local police stations open at all times, or for longer periods than at present.

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