POLICE reception desks in Cheadle and Uttoxeter are to be officially closed to the public. The move – revealed yesterday (Tuesday) – has come under fire from community leaders in both towns. Staffordshire Police confirmed only three front office counters will remain open to the public - at Burton, Cannock and Longton. Cheadle and Uttoxeter Police Station front office counters will be officially closed, along with 13 others in Burslem, Leek, Hanley, Lichfield, Stafford, Newcastle, Tamworth, Biddulph, Wombourne, Watling, Stone, Rugeley, and Kidsgrove.
While the front desk at Cheadle Police Station has been unused for some time, Uttoxeter Police Station is usually open to the public on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.
A spokesman for Staffordshire Police said: “Evidence shows that the number of visitors using police front counters has dropped steadily over the past few years, with people choosing instead to meet local officers at community locations or contact police in other ways such as by the non-emergency 101 number or online.
“Much of the demand for front office counters staff is administrative or transactional, most of which can be done more efficiently and conveniently online or by phone.
“Following full consultation with our staff and Unison it has been decided front office counters for the public will remain open at three locations across the force.
“These will be at Burton, Cannock and Longton which provide good levels of accessibility to people across the county.
“Alongside these locations, each neighbourhood policing team has a calendar of events and locations where officers and PCSOs are available to speak first-hand to the public about the issues affecting their communities. This includes drop-in and online surgeries, supported by ‘hotspot’ patrolling based on community feedback.”
According to the Staffordshire Police website, all 13 police stations facing closure have current active front office counters, although a closer look at details for the Cheadle station reveals the office is actually already closed each day.
Assistant Chief Constable Jenny Sims added: “The reduction in the number of front office counters will not affect local policing and officers will continue to have visibility and work as part of the increased community policing teams across the county.”
The announcement follows a statement last week advising members of the public that police will only deal with specific items of found property, which comes just weeks after news lost property would no longer be dealt with by officers.
Cheadle Town Mayor, Ian Plant, said: “We know that the Cheadle Police Station has not been used in this way for a long while now, going from when people press the buzzer and have to speak to a station elsewhere.
“It really is a shame as they spent a lot of money on a new police station for Cheadle and now they are not using it as one.
“It’s all fair enough to say they are having police surgeries but what if it is an incident happening when a surgery is not taking place?
“Also where are people going to take any property they may find now?
“I dread to think what it is going to be like in 20 years. When I was a lad, we had bobbies on the street who kept order. There is no such deterrent now.
“It is madness that the nearest police station people will now only be able to pop in to will be in Longton. I think people will generally feel unsafe. It is disturbing.”
Meanwhile, Uttoxeter Town Mayor Alison Trenery said: “I think it will be a sad loss for residents not to have a local police station to go in to.
“It would mean quite a travel if they had to go all the way to Burton.”
However, Cllr Trenery did praise the police saying their presence had increased.
She added: “They do quite a lot of police surgeries in Uttoxeter anyway.
“I think with the financial constraints that they have, they have done well to improve their presence in our town over the last few months.
“The main thing is that people are able to contact the police and get the help that they need.
“However, I hope that closing the counter at Uttoxeter Police Station does not mean that there will be a decrease in the number of police in town as people will still need a quick response to anything which may happen.”
This latest announcement regarding police stations in Staffordshire, follows the force’s announcement last month that Blythe Bridge Police Station is one of eight across the county to be sold off as it is ‘surplus to requirements.’
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