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Three threatened East Lancashire police stations saved from axe
TWELVE police stations and rural bases in East Lancashire will be closed and sold off, it has been announced.
But another three which had been earmarked to lose their front counter services will stay open.
Chief Constable Steve Finnigan said the force was also shedding 550 police officers and 250 police staff as part of £42million cuts, after a budget review.
Darwen, Great Harwood and Barnoldswick will all keep their front counter services, although opening hours will be reduced.
High-profile campaigns were launched to keep the services, and community leaders in the three towns said they were ‘delighted’ they had been listened to.
Stations and rural bases that will close are: Whalley, Billington, Gisburn, Hurst Green, Chipping, Ribchester, Newton-in-Bowland, Rawtenstall, Bacup, Haslingden, Earby and Cliviger.
Front desk counters will also be closed at Longridge, Brierfield and Padiham, but the stations will be kept open as a base for police officers.
Chief Constable Steve Finigan said that around 800 posts, including both police officers and civilian staff, were also being shed, and the force was expecting to respond to about 35,000 fewer incidents.
During the consultation 1,000 people completed surveys, there were 600 written responses, and 10 petitions with 10,200 sign-atures.
Mr Finnigan said staffing would be reduced by around 550 police officers and 250 police staff, from a total of around 6,500 employees.
The frontline officer posts will go from areas such as road policing, neighbourhood policing and response.
The others will be taken from back office functions, such as training, HR and scientific support.
Civilian staff who work in areas such as manning phones, administration, estates, and ICT will also go.
So far 433 jobs have gone through a recruitment freeze, retirements and resignations.
Mr Finnigan had initially forecast losing 1,000 jobs as part of a four-year plan.
To date £38million in cost savings have been found.
He said: “There is a fair bit of anxiety out there among the community and my own staff, but we have to undergo an unprecedented change programme like many other organisations.
"We have worked really hard to min-imise the impact, but we have to be realistic about what we can achieve and I will not be expecting crime figures to drop in double digits like they have in the past. We will have to expect a slower reduction.”
Clive Tattum, Chief Superintendent for Pennine Division, said: “There are a number of police buildings closing completely across the division, but we are actively looking at ways in which we can work with our partners to introduce no-cost policing bases which will enable us to keep a strong neighb-ourhood policing presence.”
In Haslingden, the force is in talks with Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service about sharing their facilities.
Lancashire Police Authority chairman Malcolm Doherty said: “We have to bear in mind that it’s people, not buildings, who cut crime and we are determined that Lancashire communities will continue to receive good policing services, despite the financial climate.”
Blackburn MP and former Home Secretary, Jack Straw, said: “This is not the fault of the Lancashire Constabulary.
"It is a consequence of cuts that are being made too deep and too fast and they are being enforced by the government on police forces across the country.
“The cuts are going to affect people’s sense of security and may even lead to increased crime levels in the area.”
Blackburn with Darwen council leader, Kate Hollern, said: “We have been fighting hard to keep this important service in Darwen.
“We understand that the police had tough decisions to make on the back of their need to make £42million cuts over the next four years, but we always felt there were compelling arguments in keeping Darwen’s front desk open.”
Darwen Mayor Coun Paul Browne, who led a campaign to save the front desk, said: “This is fantastic news and it shows that the police authority have listened to the community.
"And we can be reassured that we will be properly served by the police force.”
Rossendale and Darwen MP Jake Berry said on Twitter: “Darwen Police Station front desk will remain open, what a brilliant result for the people of Darwen.”
Adding to the delight, Sunnyhurst councillor Dave Smith said: “It’s very pleasing news. "The police have listened to what the public said during the consultation, despite the cuts.”
Rossendale Council leader Alyson Barnes said she was very concerned with the decision to close and sell off Rawtenstall Police Station.
She said: “This is really bad news for our community and I will be speaking to the police to ensure they retain a presence in the Valley.
“Rossendale is the second largest geographic area in Lancashire and having one station in Waterfoot doesn’t really cut it for the people living on the edges.”
Burnley Council leader, Charlie Briggs, said: “This has been coming for quite some time.
"So long as the police do their job and keep Burnley safe it is fine, but I would be concerned if we start losing front line police officers from our streets.”
In Brierfield, residents launched a petition against the closure of the front desk at their local station.
It was signed by more than 2,000 people but, despite this, the decision was made to close the front counter service.
Pendle councillor, Mohammed Iqbal, called on local MPs to lobby the government to stop the ‘destructive’ course of action of the closures.
He said: “This is devastating news for the people of Pendle. In Brierfield we have real issues with crime, and this will send out the wrong message to the community.
“The police have gone against the wishes of the local people.”
Barnoldswick councillor Jennifer Purcell said she was very relieved that the front counter services would remain in the town.
She said: “It is fantastic news because we need the front line desk to be kept open.”
Rural police bases are set to be sold off in seven Ribble Valley villages, including Newton-in-Bowland – the only one between Clitheroe and Lancaster, almost 25 miles.
Coun Rosemary Elms, 51, who has lived in the village all her life, said the closure of the station, which serves Newton, Slaidburn, Whitewell, and Dunsop Bridge, would lead to a crime wave in the area.
She said: “I am astounded and extremely disappointed about this decision.
"It will open up the area to crime, and we feel let down by the lack of communication by the force about this closure.”
FRONT COUNTER SERVICES TO CLOSE, OR ALREADY CLOSED, AND BUILDING SOLD:
Rawtenstall, Bacup, Haslingden, Earby, Cliviger, Whalley, Billington, Gisburn, Hurst Green, Chipping, Ribchester and Newton-in-Bowland.
FRONT DESK COUNTERS TO CLOSE, BUT BUILDING KEPT AS POLICE BASE:
Brierfield, Padiham and Longridge.
FRONT COUNTER SERVICE SAVED, BUT REDUCED OPENING:
Barnoldswick, Darwen and Great Harwood. They will open Tuesday to Saturday, from 10am to 6pm, but will close between 2pm and 3pm STAYING OPEN:
Burnley, Nelson, Colne, Rossendale (Waterfoot), Blackburn Greenbank, Accrington, Blackburn Town Centre, Clitheroe.
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