OVER 1,000 people have signed a petition calling on Northumbria Police to abandon plans to dramatically reduce the opening hours of front desks at police stations across the North-East.
As part of the proposal, announced last month, Hexham police station, which was open 24 hours a day seven days a week, will now be open from 9am to 5pm, five days a week.
And Prudhoe police station, which has operated from 8am to midnight, will now be open from 9am to 5pm five days a week.
The force says the changes, which will see the front office hours slashed at a total of 23 stations and the complete closure of three, are being made in response to a significant decline in public use.
They say the use of online and phone services to report incidents has increased and that the changes will be implemented from Monday.
But representatives from the public service union, Unison, have spoken out to say the cuts are too radical and have criticised the lack of consultation.
Peter Chapman, Unison regional organiser said: “Despite claims that consultation on these plans had taken place, it’s obvious by the reactions from Unison and local politicians that this has not been the case.
“These changes will not only have an impact on Unison members – some facing a 25 per cent cut in pay – but also on the local communities Northumbria Police serves.
“Some of the stations, like for example Forth Banks in Newcastle, are particularly busy and from next Monday the public will have nowhere to go after 8pm.”
The petition, which can be found online at change.org, aims to persuade the force’s chief constable, Steve Ashman, and police and crime commissioner, Dame Vera Baird, to reconsider.
Mayor of Hexham, Coun. Tom Gillanders, said Hexham Town Council had not been consulted formally on the proposals.
“We speak to Insp. Pam Bridges quite regularly, so we were aware that these changes were going ahead, and of course we are concerned.
“But we are assured these changes will not affect the operational viability of the stations and hope this proves to be the case.”
A spokesman for Northumbria Police said this week: “Once again we want to reassure the public that these changes do not affect the number of operational stations across the force or the availability of our front line officers.
“The trade unions, particularly Unison, have been involved since January in discussions on the proposed model and the impact on their members.
“Chief and senior officers are meeting with senior councillors and partner organisations to discuss the changes and address any concerns.”