Kidsgrove Town Council Labour members arranged a public meeting to take place on the 7th November 2011, regarding the closure of Kidsgrove police station. The meeting was held at Kidsgrove’s Victoria Hall and the following is an extraction of the minutes that were taken at the public meeting.
Unsurprisingly, Dennis Richards, who is a Lib Dem Councillor for the Butt Lane ward was booed at, hissed at, and shouted down by members of the public and the microphone was snatched from his hands.
Read on to find out why Councillor Dennis Richards was booed down by the general public!
Kidsgrove Town Council
Councillors: Kyle Robinson (Town Mayor), Mrs Gill Burnett (Deputy Mayor),
David Stringer, Mrs Elsie Bates, Mrs Silvia Burgess, Mrs Janet Parsons, Reg Bailey, Mrs Margaret Astle, Raymond Astle, David Daniels, Matthew Banner David Allport.
Chief Superintendent Jon Drake
Chief Inspector Peter Owen
Inspector Neil Hulme
Mr Frank Chapman – Police Authority
Liz McGinn, Media Department
Minute Taker: Mrs Irene Faulkner.
Councillors John Evans, John Taylor, Mrs Mary Maxfield76 Members of the general public attended.The Town Mayor thanked everyone for attending the meeting which had been called to discuss the controversial plans to close down Kidsgrove Police Station and to relocate the Police into Kidsgrove Town Hall.The case for the Police was presented by Chief Superintendent Jon Drake and Inspector Neil Hulme and for Kidsgrove Town Council by Councillor David Stringer.
Councillor Stringer thanked everyone for attending and also the 3,000 people who signed had the petition. The Town Council does not wish Kidsgrove Police Station on its present site to close and therefore wanted to receive the views of the people, results have shown that the majority of the people wish the Police Station, to remain at its current location.
Arguments have been put forward and promises made to the effect that the Police will retain the same level of policing in 5 or 10 years time, given the figures provided it was questioned whether this could happen.
In August 2011, Councillor Stringer along with representatives of the Police and Police Authority visited Rickmansworth in order to view an existing partnership working system and the way forward to promote crime prevention.
It was Councillor Stringers opinion that the lay-out and working arrangements at Rickmansworth would not be a viable proposition for Kidsgrove Town Hall.
Since April of this year three meetings had taken place between Kidsgrove Town Council and the Police. Kidsgrove Town Council felt that it was not being kept fully informed about updated figures which appeared to be changing on a daily basis.
It was also highlighted that some correspondence forwarded over the period of three meetings had not been responded to and that Joan Walley M.P. had waited a period of months before a reply had been received.
The figures were eventually revealed last week, and do not correspond to those received at tonight’s meeting and have again changed. At the end of the meeting, which took place last week, Kidsgrove Town Council feet that the views of the Council had not been given full consideration.
The long term view of Kidsgrove Town Council is that money will be spent on moving into the Town Hall. There is no guarantee that by 2015 the situation would remain the same and that more savings will be required. This could result in the Police moving out before the 10 year period and leaving Kidsgrove without a Police presence at at all.
Chief Superintendent Jon Drake introduced Inspector Neil Hulme, LPT Commander for Newcastle and Mr Frank Chapman, local Police Authority Representative.
Ch. Supt Jon Drake gave an overview of the forces intention to save 38 million pounds by 2015 and the necessity to identify where savings could be made, especially on buildings, such savings could keep more police on the ground.
All Response Officers have been briefed since April at Newcastle covering 24/7 and will also call into Kidsgrove Police Station to do paper work. Neighbourhood policing remains with the PCSO’s and Neighbourhood Police Officers working from Kidsgrove.
Staffordshire Police are looking to share buildings with partners with a similar approach to that being made at Newcastle Borough Council where the Police work from within the Civic Offices.
Ch. Supt Drake highlighted that Kidsgrove Town Hall is a public facing building, housing Kidsgrove Customer Service Centre, Citizen Advice Bureau, Social Care and Health and Kidsgrove Town Council.
The Police are looking at relocation as a long term solution which will be a ten year site. It will provide a facility 24/7 for Police Officers and staff to work from, it would have a Police Station sign outside. Spring 2012 being the target, although a huge amount of work has to be done and if a decision is made a considerable amount of consultation will take place regarding the design of the front counter.
Kidsgrove Police Station currently costs £54,000 to run, this covers heating and lighting for a work force of only 12 people. The Police are looking at spending £88,000 on the building to cover all maintenance work. In comparison, Kidsgrove Town Hall would cost £10,000 rent, £18,000 running costs and £40,000 upgrading it over a three year period. The savings would be in excess of a third of a million pounds on running costs. The police suggest that this considerable amount of money would help keep people employed.
In conclusion, if a decision is made, this would take place in Spring 2012 with the same officers and PCSO’s working the same hours, the only difference would be that the words ‘Police Station’ would be displayed on a building literally down the road.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q1 A lady stated that she had been a member of this community all of her life and was passionate about the issue in question and had spent time looking at the Home Office guidance 2011 where a directive had been issued to a new approach to tackling crime with a radical shift to local communities to hold the Police and Community Safety Partnerships to account.
As a disabled member of the community she wanted the Police Station to be in a building where she did not have to confront any criminals in a “One Stop Shop” whilst paying her council tax and she does not feel it is acceptable for the Police to place her in this position.
R The building would not be exclusive to the Police, but private rooms would be available on the ground floor to offer a 24/7 service or otherwise the Police could make home visits. It was stressed by Chief Inspector Pete Owen that visiting people in their homes was part of the service they provide.
2 Another lady informed the meeting that she had lived in Kidsgrove for twenty years and on one occasion in an evening 15 youths were standing outside her house and she was alone. She rang the Police and after 15 minutes nobody arrived. She then had a telephone call where she explained the situation, she was then given the option of the police coming to knock on her door. She did refuse this as she thought it might inflate the situation.
R Ch. Supt Jon Drake apologised and hoped that it would not happen again. When ASB situations have been reported, Police should always update the caller. Ch. Supt Drake asked the lady to come forward after the meeting.
Q3) A question was asked with regard to the new Enquiry Office attached to Kidsgrove Police Station and the waste of money the work on this building had incurred.
R Ch. Supt Drake replied that the Police did spend money on the Enquiry Office facility, however, no-one could foresee the financial crisis we are now facing and that money cannot be retrieved. A decision based on the information given at the time had to be made as a DDA facility was required and it was the right decision at the time.
4) A lady living in Kidsgrove over the shops, reported that at weekends youths are drinking and doing drugs outside her home, they have watched them but have not seen the police on the scene.
R Inspector Neil Hulme explained that the Police are trying to tackle such problems with Staffordshire Youth Service, and are also conducting workshops around alcohol and anti social behaviour. It is hoped that this will break down barriers and allow them to discourage anti social behaviour and make them aware of the affect such behaviour is having on local residents. Inspector Hulme requested details of this incident.
5) A lady pensioner highlighted that the pensioners really appreciate Kidsgrove Police Station being where it is.
R It was stressed by the Police that the same officers and staff will still be working from the Police Station which will only be a couple of hundred yards down the road.
6) Councillor Banner referred to a meeting held last week with the Police where it was evident that no set plan had been decided upon. This was in contradiction to information received from PCSO’s.
R A decision will be made by the Police Authority and will be tabled for discussion in December. All its staff are aware that Kidsgrove Town Hall looks a very attractive proposition and offers operational benefits to save money. The public do have a say, not only with respect to the building, but on what the service will look like.
Mr Frank Chapman – Police Authority, County and Borough Councillor, responded that, ultimately the decision will be made by the Police Authority which must face reality as there is a strong case to move the Police Station to Kidsgrove Town Hall. Mr Chapman commented about police changes over the years, he had been a Superintendent at Newcastle and said that people did rely on visiting the Police Stations more, but today more people use a mobile telephone to make contact.
The Police did have Response Teams at Kidsgrove but since April of this year, they have now been moved to Newcastle.
Councillor Stringer reported that since the Response Teams had been moved to Newcastle Police Station there was a slot whereby the police response is 15 minutes at certain times of the day no matter what the emergency was.
Inspector Neil Hulme informed the meeting that in the first six months of this new working pattern Anti Social Behaviour has dropped by 45%, with burglary of a dwelling to one burglary every 12 days. He stressed that Kidsgrove is not a high crime area and is a safe place to go about normal business. Finance was the initial driver but more importantly it is the joined up service with other partners.
Councillor Robinson said that with regard to response times as Chair of Kidsgrove Town Council he receives complaints at local events, people are informing him that their calls are not being responded to any more quickly since the Response Teams have moved out. Residents do not see PCSO’s on the street as they did before the move.
Q7) A gentleman from the floor mentioned that on the 7.00 a.m. to 3.00 p.m. shift that some police are working in Newcastle but are travelling to and fro, two or three times day, and asked if the police report to Kidsgrove.
It is rumoured that Staffordshire Police are considering disbanding the PCSO’s in 2013 to help make a saving. Can the Police confirm whether or not there is any truth in that rumour?
R Ch. Supt Jon Drake replied that Response Officers get briefed at Newcastle and are then allocated to Kidsgrove to patrol, the reason is that we are a shrinking organisation and efficiencies are made by putting people together but the Neighbourhood Police Team (12 in total) are briefed at Kidsgrove and Response teams come to Kidsgrove to write up their reports.
The Chief Constable had made a commitment until 2013 with regard to PCSO’s but we not sure about finances after this date.
8) Councillor Mrs Margaret Astle referred to this issue as being very emotive, Kidsgrove has five wards and although she can understand the points of view made by the local police officers and residents, one simple solution could be that instead of moving, keep the Police Station and ask partner agencies to move into the Police Station. The new Enquiry Office is suitable for disabled access, could not an approach be made to partner agencies to work in Kidsgrove Police Station. This proposal was strongly supported by the public.
R Ch. Supt Drake replied to the effect that if there were enough partners who wished to move into the existing Kidsgrove Police Station, this would be a consideration, although some key partners are already working from the Town Hall, i.e. the C.A.B and Social Care & Health.
9) One gentleman made a suggestion that, perhaps Burslem and Tunstall could come to Kidsgrove, the reply given by Ch. Supt Drake was that it is important to have a local base in the community.
10) A gentleman asked if the Police use video conference facilities.
R Ch. Supt Drake said that conference facilities are used. By placing staff together in one building we could utilise transport facilities more efficiently and also to get a briefing together on a shift.
11) Councillor Geoff Locke mentioned the quality of service and thought it was difficult to see that any redeployment to Newcastle would improve this. He did appreciate the financial pressures the Police were under but could not see that the move to Kidsgrove Town Hall would achieve the figures that are being discussed, although he had not actually seen a definitive set of figures in writing.
Councillor Locke referred to the recent proposal for the closure of Butt Lane Sorting Office and the relocation to Knutton, would it not be possible for the Royal Mail to move into the existing Kidsgrove Police Station which would then still keep this facility in Kidsgrove.
Note from Margaret Astle, Royal Mail are looking at streamlining their services and this includes the sale of the Butt Lane sorting office. Effectively, Royal Mail wish to dispose of some of their assets before part of Royal Mail is sold off to cronies of the Tory/Lib Dem government.
Ch. Supt Drake acknowledged that he was aware of the proposed closure of the Butt Lane Sorting Office and said that it could be looked into.
In terms of figures, he was happy to provide these in writing and highlighted that a large amount of money was tied up in the Police Station and mentioned that only when the property had been sold and contracts exchanged would the exact value be known because of the fluctuating market.
Ch. Supt Drake stated that the service provided so far this year indicated that a 2% rise in incidents attended on time had taken place compared to the same period last year and since the move had taken place to Newcastle of the Response Team.
Mr Frank Chapman – Police Authority said that, members of the Police Authority manage the budget and suggested that, if there was a strong financial case, the Police would not move, they are the guardians of the public purse. He informed the meeting that Staffordshire Police are one of the top ranked forces in the country on public satisfaction and services.
12) A gentleman questioned the figures given out by Inspector Neil Hulme and referred to 5 burglaries in Whitehall Avenue last week.
R Inspector Neil Hulme said he would speak with the gentleman after the meeting.
Q13) A gentleman said that the public money had spent on Kidsgrove Police Station and it did not wish to spend more. He made a suggestion that the Police should spend £70,000 and refurbish the existing building.
14) Councillor Reg Bailey said that residents of Kidsgrove were frightened of mixing with people in the Town Hall who were either on the Sex Offenders List or an ASBO and people who are on bail, coming to report to the Police.
The Police responded that, it depends on the nature of the offence and where it is reported to. If it is not appropriate for them to come into the station they can request another venue. In general terms Kidsgrove Town Hall would be like any other Police Station with some exceptions, and the design of service, i.e. particular categories of clients would have to be discussed and planned in advance.
Councillor Reg Bailey referred to people being arrested in Kidsgrove.
The Police said that Kidsgrove had not had holding cells for a long time and all arrests would be dealt with at Etruria.
Q15) A lady referred to the sale of the existing Kidsgrove Police Station and enquired that if it did become empty what was the possible threat of vandalism and referred to a building that had been totally vandalised. Would manpower be needed to secure the building and how long would it take to sell it and would another supermarket or take away move in.
Ch. Supt Drake acknowledged the physical security of Police Station but assured that no Police Officers would be standing outside the Police Station before it is sold.
16) A lady referred to some of the leisure activities that are taking place inside the Kidsgrove Town Hall, Victoria Hall and if the building became open 24/7 how safe would it be regarding the possible theft of bags etc. and would there be some form of risk assessment
Mr Frank Chapman – Police Authority stated that they could look into this issue.
17) Councillor Banner questioned the suitability of the building as various activities take place during the day and evening. Some meetings encounter hearing difficulties at these times due to noise levels.
R They didn’t see the value of the statement made because we mange to have meetings in the same situations and they will be able to as well.
18) Councillor Richards said that he was a member of the Liberal Democrat Party and in favour of closure to save some of the money that the previous government has wasted. People here tonight want their Council Tax spent on people, and mentioned that, the current problems have been caused by the last Labour Government. The public showed their dislike of this statement. The Chairman stopped the item, stating that the remarks were not relevant to the debate.
Note by Margaret Astle, the general public booed and hissed at Councillor Dennis Richards disgraceful remarks and they were shouting for him to sit down and shut up.
19) Councillor Mrs Elsie Bates asked ‘are the Police playing everyone for fools, is the deal signed and sealed?’
Ch. Supt Drake explained that although the move into Kidsgrove Town Hall appeared feasible from a financial point of view, no deal has been signed, it will be a decision made by the Police Authority.
He had been in the Police Force for 22 years, originally at Newcastle, spending some time in Kidsgrove. The content of the Police Station has changed, there used to be a Custody facility, C.I.D. and a lot of different functions, but although these functions have gone, the Neighbourhood Officers will be the same people who will be moving if a move goes ahead into Kidsgrove Town Hall.
The Town Mayor, announced that the meeting was now closing and would like a show of hands for the following:
1) Support for moving the Response Teams back into Kidsgrove
There was an overwhelming majority show of hands
2) Support of moving the Police into Kidsgrove Town Hall
There was a show of four hands, including Lib Dem Councillors David Daniels and Dennis Richards.
It was concluded that the overall majority wish to keep the Police Station as it now stands.
Mr Frank Chapman – Police Authority came to the floor and said he wished to reply to the Councillor who asked the question, ‘are the Police taking the public for fools’.
He said that they would not be here tonight to represent the views if that was so. There is a strong case, but all he would ask of the public was to continue to support the local police officers – it will not be their decision. If there was to be a reduction in service, he would like to be the first to know.
The Chairman asked that any further questions be directed to local councillors or the Police who are always available to help.
The meeting closed at 8.35 p.m.