Essex Police and the Police and Crime Commissioner, Nick Alston, have today confirmed proposals to close fifteen police station front counters as the force develops a modern fit for purpose police estate to meet the challenges of keeping the county safe.
The force has also concluded consultation with staff and informed them of the outcomes of the process which will see 98 Customer Contact Administrator posts reduce to 36.
The Essex Police front counters which will remain open to the public from 9am to 5pm are: Grays, Basildon, Southend, Harlow, Chelmsford, Braintree, Colchester and Clacton (all Monday to Sunday) Maldon, Saffron Walden (both Monday to Friday). These front counters represent 80% of all visits to Essex Police stations during a two-month long piece of research.
Operational policing bases, without front counters, will be kept in: Loughton, Brentwood, Canvey Island, Great Dunmow, Rayleigh and Harwich. The front counters scheduled for closure will be closed by April 2016.
One consequence of reducing the number of front counters is that fewer police staff posts will be needed. Formal consultation has concluded with Unison over proposals to reduce Contact Customer Administrator posts from 98 to 36; staff who will be retained in post, deployed to other roles or who will be given notice of redundancy have been informed.
The force and Mr Alston have also reaffirmed their commitment to improved public contact, with new online crime and lost property reporting on a new force website set to begin in spring 2016 and work to investigate new ways of delivering face-to-face contact with police underway.
Chief Constable Stephen Kavanagh said: “I want to pay tribute to the commitment and professionalism of Customer Contact Administrators before throughout and since the consultation process, and thank those who may be leaving the organisation over the next few months for their service to Essex Police and the public in our county.
“The financial outlook might be slightly brighter than we thought in the autumn, but Essex Police still needs to change. We spend too much on too many police buildings, many of which are either no longer fit for policing or are hardly used by the public to report crime. Police officers, not buildings, fight crime and the confirmation today of proposals the PCC and I made in October provide for a police estate fit for the future ready to cope with changes in crime and technology.
“I understand the views of people we ve spoken to in the last few months who are worried that losing their police station will make them feel less safe, but the reality is the opposite is true: every expensive and outdated building which isn t well-used by the public we keep open means fewer officers on patrol stopping crime and helping vulnerable people.
Nick Alston, Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex, said: “I have met and spoken with many Customer Contact Administrators, and their professionalism has always shone through.
“It is clear though that the Essex Police property estate is currently haemorrhaging millions of pounds of public money every year which should be spent on preventing and solving crime. We have too many old and often poorly maintained buildings which are no longer fit for a modern police service.
“Extensive work is currently underway to ensure that the people of Essex will be able to contact their police force in more modern ways, whilst still preserving the option of telephone and face-to-face contact for those who prefer it.
“It is always sad when dedicated colleagues face the risk of redundancy, but with Essex Police significantly reducing the number of police station front counters, a reduction in the number of Customer Contact Administrator posts was, regrettably, the inevitable result.
“I welcome Essex Police s decision to pause until early in 2016 the proposal to reduce the numbers of PCSOs, in light of the need to consider further information about the budget which will be provided by the government later this month.
“The drive to ensure Essex Police is fit not only for today, but for the future, will continue.
“Essex Police must continue to adapt and respond to the changing nature of crime be it terrorist threats, cybercrime and online grooming, or serious violence perpetrated by organised criminal gangs and, most sadly, in the context of domestic abuse. Equally, Essex Police must remain closely connected with the people of our county and involved in working with partner agencies in solving local problems.