THERE might, in the view of cynics, be a smack of gimmickry about having police officers 'on the beat' inside town halls -- a move that two East Lancashire councils are among the first in the country to adopt.

But it is a smart step to improve and increase liaison between local authorities and police so that the crime and disorder problems blighting many communities are dealt with more swiftly and efficiently.

It does, of course, also bolster the security of town hall staff -- a necessity that was spelled out compellingly 11 years ago by a dreadful lethal arson attack in Blackburn town hall.

But in addition to this, the stationing from next week of two designated constables in the council offices -- one at Blackburn and the other at Accrington -- will extend and focus the fight against crooks, rowdyism and bad neighbours as the police and town hall join forces.

Local authorities and the police have long worked together, but this step is a form of fine-tuning of that partnership at ground level, cutting through delays and bureaucracy generated by formal meetings -- so that when a problem or complaint arises, the police officer can, as is explained by a chief inspector helping to organise the project, go directly to the council department involved.

That way, the feedback that the council receives from the community on issues such as hooliganism on housing estates, drug dealing, outbreaks of break-ins and vandalism or troublesome neighbours can be funnelled to the police and action swiftly taken -- both by the police and the town hall.

And as communities become increasingly aware of the improved response to crime and disorder problems and the potential reduction of them that this scheme promises, the more flourishing and effective it should become.

It has always been the case that the police depend to great extent on strong ties with the community for the information and co-operation that they need to maintain law and order and having bobbies on the beat in the town halls is a new and extra bridge that puts them in greater touch with people to enable them to do an even better job. It deserves every encouragement.