London Colney police station to close

A DECISION to close a village police station has been branded a “backwards step” in policing by an incensed councillor.

On Friday, the Herts Police Authority (HPA) voted to close and sell six police stations in the county including that in London Colney – which also serves the Colney Heath and St Stephen wards – in a bid to help bridge a �36 million funding gap over the next four years.

But county councillor for The Colneys, Chris Brazier, is against the move and said that he, along with other key community figures including the police sergeant responsible for the station, were not made aware of the proposals until the 11th hour. He said: “I think this is outrageous, no consultation and not even to tell the local councillors or the police officers is an appalling state of affairs.”

Labelling the move a “backwards step in policing”, Cllr Brazier, who has written to the HPA with his concerns, continued: “My fear is that now it is closed the public perception will be that the police are further away. Where there is a police station people feel they have somewhere to go to, even if it is not always open they can still use the phone outside and it is a symbol of police presence. The public and the criminals will feel that the police are not about any more – that is what concerns me about this closure.”

Labour councillor Martin Leach, who joined campaigners outside the station this week, said: “People will be upset by this and they are right to be. I am particularly annoyed that this has happened without any public consultation.

“How about asking local people what they want? I know the police will do everything they can to maintain the standard of service, but this station is important. It’s important to community life and it’s important to people’s sense of security.”

“What we are seeing in London Colney is a direct result of the 20 per cent cut to police budgets imposed by the Conservative-led government. We were told that frontline services would not be affected. That is clearly not the case. It doesn’t get much more frontline than your local police station. The coalition parties can try to defend this by saying that all cuts are inevitable. They are not.”

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Despite the decision to close the stations – which was largely based on footfall and their proximity to other police stations – the HPA has pledged to protect Safer Neighbourhood Policing Teams and limit the impact on frontline services as much as possible.

But the closures, which form part of a wider review of the HPA’s estates and buildings, will only generate annual savings of �220,000 and capital receipts in the region of �2.4 million which means other savings will need to be found elsewhere. These will include the sale of St Albans police station in Victoria Street before its relocation to a smaller premises elsewhere in the city.

Chair of HPA, Stuart Nagler, said on Friday: “This is the first of many difficult decisions we are going to have to make in the coming weeks to ensure that Hertfordshire’s high quality of policing services are maintained in the county despite the 17 per cent cut in our funding.

“I would like to reassure people that the decision made today will not impact on the number of operational staff, including neighbourhood teams and PCSOs on patrol in the locations affected.

“Whilst some officers and staff will have their base moved to other nearby stations, they will continue to be dedicated to their local area. In addition we have asked the constabulary to explore opportunities with other partners to find alternative venues in these areas that could be used to hold drop-in sessions for the public and possibly as a base for Neighbourhood Policing Team officers.”