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Salisbury Police Station to go?

July 4, 2013 8:00 AM

Whichever side of the law you're on, the loss of your local police station can cause a lot of inconvenience. Here's a letter on the subject, followed by a WC press release.

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"Dear Councillor

I'm writing to express my anger at the news that Salisbury Police Station is to be closed. There has been no consultation, it's a "done deal" but worst of all, it is contrary to the pledge made by Angus MacPherson, the PCC. I feel particularly aggrieved, having decided to vote for an independent candidate, only to change my mind after he wrote to me personally stating that he would not close the station. Any faith I had in Conservative politicians has since evaporated, no longer will I be voting Conservative. UKIP here I come.

Having read the coverage in the Salisbury Journal I am also of the opinion that this decision is a political one and is not based on sound financial or operational policing reasons. The reason I know this is because the PCC, chief constable and Inspector Noble from Salisbury have spouted a load of old nonsense. I attended the Salisbury Area Board last week and the reasons given do not bear scrutiny.

Reason 1: The building costs £500k per year to maintain

With twenty years in the building management trade I can tell you that Salisbury Police station costs nowhere near this amount to maintain. I used the Building Research Establishment Domestic Energy Model (BREDEM) to calculate the energy use of the Police Station. The worst case cost I came up with was £35,000 per year. Water and maintenance would add a further £15,000 - £20,000 on top. In other words, the PCC's figures are inflated by a factor of ten.

The main reason given for the closure is the cost of upkeep being half a million pound. This is demonstrably false. So their decision is fundamentally flawed. Just think about this, how could a college take on a building with running costs of half a million per year?

Reason 2: The building is underused.

Again, the floor plans for the station indicate that it would have an occupancy of 200. The PCC states that only 175 work in the building but he has not counted the Special Constables or Police Volunteers who work there. These would bump the occupancy above 200, so it is over populated rather than under populated.

Both reasons are therefore mendacious, especially in light of the £21m reserve that Wiltshire Police currently have. So this is not about not being able to afford the Station, saving money or an underused building. Hence why I say it is a political decision. Wiltshire council want their college to succeed, the PCC has a suitable building; "we can manage without" he has told Wiltshire Council. Now you may agree that it is a political decision, and agree with it from that perspective, but the closure will have significant knock on effects on our Police Service, Service delivery and will cost us all many millions of pounds, and here is why.

Custody

Salisbury Police Station has a recently refurbished custody suite. Once the station is closed, custody will have to close as well and the PCC and Inspector Nobel admitted this at the area board. The intention is to have a temporary prefab custody built somewhere (location TBC) prior to a new custody suite being built (location TBC). I don't know how much a prefab custody will cost, but I know that G4S specialise in them, I imagine this will be of the order of £500 - £800k. However, I do know how much it will cost to build a new bespoke custody suite with 20 cells, its over £4m.

So the closure has a significant cost associated with it, that negates any cost saving that may have been made by closing the station.

But of course I doubt that a new custody will ever be built. Rather the decision will be taken, reluctantly, that prisoner's will have to be shuttled up to Melksham, Swindon or down to Southampton. Such a decision will have a significant operational impact on Policing across the south of the county.

If we take Melksham as an example, the time taken for a round trip carrying a prisoner from Salisbury to Melksham is about one hour. A prisoner would require two officers to accompany them over that distance, so we lose 4 man hours to the travel time. Last year there were 3300 arrests in Salisbury and the southern area processed at Salisbury Custody. 3300 multiplied by 4 equals 13200 man hours or in other words, the equivalent of taking 8 full time Police Officers off the streets and turning them into a taxi service.

However, the issue is more complex than this. People arrested in Salisbury would find themselves kicked out of custody in Melksham, often with no way or money to get home. The Police have a duty of care and so would be obliged to return the prisoner back home. This would not happen in all cases but it would happen in a significant number, perhaps half, enough to equate to 6000 man hours.

The effect of this is to remove 12 Police Officers or two response teams from the south of the county. If the PCC or Chief Constable suggested reducing the number of response teams from 5 to 3, there would be a huge public outcry. Their proposal is effectively the same thing.

At the area board the Police showed the crime figures for the past 12 months, almost all crime was up over the 12 months. With only 3 response teams instead of 5 we can expect crime to rise even further, whilst response times to crime will also increase significantly, if indeed we even get a response.

The decision to close the station is ill thought through, and its result will be either a £4m cost or a loss of two response teams. Inspector Noble was quoted in the Journal as stating that it was a choice between the "station or the people"; he's wrong, the loss of the station will also lead to the loss of people, its lose-lose.

The PCC

With regard to performance, so far the performance of the PCC is extremely poor. Not only is this an outrageous broken election pledge but we learn from the Public Accounts Committee that he has nine other jobs in addition to being the PCC. Later, from the declaration of decisions we learn that he has made the least decisions of any PCC, with only 4 declared.

I await his expenses declaration with extreme interest.

I would like you as an elected representative to press the PCC and the Chief Constable on the issues I raise (that is after all, your role). Let's see some real costs/justification, or cost benefit analysis on the closure. If it can't be justified, keep it open."

Kind regards

M B

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Public meeting on future of policing arrangements

People are invited to a public meeting in Salisbury on Wednesday 17 July to find out more about proposals to relocate police services in the city.

It comes following an announcement last week that Police and Crime Commissioner for Wiltshire and Swindon Angus Macpherson agreed in principle a proposal that would help deliver new policing and education opportunities in Salisbury.

If formally agreed, the proposal would see Salisbury Police Station extensively refurbished to house the new South Wiltshire University Technical College (UTC). Police officers and staff currently located at the station will be relocated to premises in Salisbury shared with the local authority, leading to a reduction in costs by sharing resources, such as buildings.

Mr Macpherson said:

"Since the announcement last week there has, understandably, been lots of questions and interest in this proposal from people in south Wiltshire. Along with my police and council colleagues, I attended Salisbury Area Board on Thursday (27 June) to explain more about this idea to those at the meeting.

"I now wish to host another public meeting in the city to give more people the opportunity to find out about what is being considered and give feedback. There will be an opportunity to ask questions of all the partner agencies involved."

The meeting will take place at The Guildhall in Salisbury on Wednesday 17 July from 6.30pm.

As well as the Commissioner speaking, representatives from Wiltshire Police, Wiltshire Council and South Wiltshire UTC will be attending. In addition to information about the UTC proposals being presented, there will also be an update on the Salisbury campus project. There will also be a question and answer session and details of how Wiltshire Police and Wiltshire Council already successfully work together in other areas of the county.

The proposal being looked into is subject to planning permission being granted and terms being agreed. It would involve the PCC granting a lease to Wiltshire Council, as the local education authority, for the use of the Wilton Road site as a UTC.

The local education authority would sub-let the building to the UTC, which would pay a peppercorn rent. The UTC would open in September 2014, providing specialist technical education in science and engineering for more than 600 14-18 year-olds.

Wiltshire Police officers and staff would be based at modern shared premises in the city. This would include the Bourne Hill offices and Salisbury Library. In the future it is likely that police services would be located at the community campus.

The Salisbury Neighbourhood Policing Team (NPT) will remain a visible presence in the city, and would be able to work much more closely with the council. As a temporary measure Salisbury response, which reacts to 999 calls in the area, is likely to move to Amesbury police station, with a longer term view for it to be based at Salisbury community campus.

Mr Macpherson added:

"In line with my Police and Crime Plan, this proposal is about local agencies working together to improve services for the public and save money in light of the significant government budget cuts. I am confident that if this proposal were to proceed, there would continue to be a high visibility police presence in Salisbury."

Wiltshire Police Authority, which was in place before the Commissioner was elected, had agreed to locate neighbourhood and response policing to shared local authority premises wherever possible. The Commissioner's Police and Crime Plan restates this intention. Discussions have also been taking place for some time about the police presence at the forthcoming community campus in Salisbury.