Fears over cut to station’s opening hours

Bedlington Police Station
Bedlington Police Station

Plans to leave South East Northumberland without a police station open 24/7 have been criticised.

Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery says he has been left shocked at news that Bedlington Police Station is to reduce its opening hours.

He says the move will leave the constituency without any 24/7 police stations as the front office will only be open between the hours of 8am and 8pm.

Blyth and Cramlington police stations will see their front office opening hours cut from 9am to 5pm five days a week to 10am to 2pm five days a week.

Northumbria Police say the changes will not see a reduction in the availability of officers but are being made in response to a significant decline in the use of front offices.

Mr Lavery said: “Since 2010 Northumbria Police force has been forced to deal with cuts to its budget of £136million – equating to 23 per cent in real terms.

“This is unsustainable and leaves an under pressure force having to make choices that potentially affect the safety of local people.

“These changes mean that Bedlington police station will no longer be operating 24/7 and instead will operate from 8am to 8pm.

“Residents will be rightly concerned at the continued downgrade of services here in South East Northumberland, where Bedlington has already seen its custody suite closed in recent years.

“Crimes can happen at any time of the day and the closure of this resource will clearly not improve the current situation and there is every chance this could make things worse.

“Bedlington itself has seen vandalism and anti-social behaviour in recent weeks and with the community seeking additional support, this announcement will leave many feeling let down.

“These services are essential to our towns and villages and the government needs to act properly to fund our force to ensure that community policing is based in our communities.

“I have written to the policing minister Nick Hurd MP seeking an urgent meeting to discuss the funding of the force and the impact of the decision on Bedlington and Wansbeck.

“I am also seeking urgent discussions with Chief Constable Steve Ashman to discuss these new arrangements and to seek a guarantee that the police presence in our communities is not further diminished.”

Police officials say the savings generated will be used to support operational policing and invest in greater accessibility to the service provided.

Chief Constable Steve Ashman said: “We are still wrestling with the impact of austerity and the cuts that we have faced in Northumbria are the largest of any force in the country.

“This has meant that we have to make difficult decisions whilst striving to deliver the best possible service to our communities.

“We know that the public want to see police officers on the street and we are changing the way we work in order to protect this.

“We also know that residents don’t want to have to go to a police station in order to report information; but rather report it in their own home and at a time that is convenient for them.

“We always strive to provide an outstanding service to everyone in our communities and this investment into online and social communication will enable us to continue to do that.”