Police commissioner gives no guarantee over station future
PUBLISHED: 10:00 18 September 2013
THE Police and Crime Commissioner for Avon and Somerset has refused to guarantee Weston will retain its police station.
Sue Mountstevens was quizzed by Weston Town Council on Monday about the police’s long-term strategy for the town. Rumours have persisted for months that Avon and Somerset Constabulary is considering moving from its current base in Walliscote Road.
But this is the first time it has been suggested Weston – and other town centres – may lose their main base in favour of out-of-town developments.
Weston Town Hall became the new home of police enquiries in January and has been well received according to Ms Mountstevens, with several other councils keen to strike up a similar relationship.
She said: “I’m told the Town Hall Gateway has worked very well. But will I safeguard stations over the whole of Avon and Somerset? No I won’t.
“I need to save £15million and then I need to protect people who are on the front line.
“Where I can I will support people not buildings, but there will always be a front desk where people are.”
Ms Mountstevens said in an age of austerity keeping response teams in a central location is not always the best option and dividing up responsibilities, as has been done with the Town Hall, is more cost-effective.
She said: “We need an area where our response teams are but that doesn’t have to be in the very expensive areas in the centre of town.
“I’m very clear there will be changes because I can’t find £15million and not make changes. I need frontline police officers.”
Chief Superintendent Nikki Watson said that, from an operational point of view, it does not make a big difference where response teams are based.
Sometimes they are sent out to anticipated problem areas before trouble starts, she added.
Ms Mountstevens also revealed she wants the public to decide on how much precept they should pay to the police through next year’s council tax.
Three options are proposed: freezing the level, raising it by two per cent (six pence per week) and raising it by 10 per cent (32p per week).
The former option would result in 200 positions being lost and the latter 50 posts, although a rise of 10 per cent would require a referendum costing taxpayers £1million.