Sidmouth council's anger at cop shop opening cuts continues

PUBLISHED: 13:05 11 June 2010 | UPDATED: 14:04 18 June 2010

IT S a cop out! is how a Sidmouth town councillor described a police chief s response to council concerns at a possible reduction in public opening hours at Sidmouth Police Station from 37 to 20 a week.

IT'S a cop out!" is how a Sidmouth town councillor described a police chief's response to council concerns at a possible reduction in public opening hours at Sidmouth Police Station from 37 to 20 a week.

A response by Paul Netherton, assistant chief constable for Devon & Cornwall Constabulary, to a strongly-worded letter from the council after it learnt of the Force-wide review of front desk opening hours, states: "We are not looking to close police stations or reduce the number of places where people can have face-to-face contact with their local police.

"However, I have a duty to make sure the Police Service is both efficient and effective and you would expect me to do nothing less with public funds, especially in the current challenging financial climate."

He said local views were being sought over whether access provided best met people's needs, adding: "A weekday 9-5 service, such as we provide at Sidmouth, may not be the best for many people and they may want more flexibility as to when they can speak to police staff."

Recent work at Sidmouth found that in half a day of opening there were customers at the station for less than 15 percent of the time, he said.

"We must ask the question: 'are we open at the right times of day for the people of Sidmouth?' Could we move the hours so that we opened later at night or be open more at the weekend?"

"I think it is a cop out," said Councillor John Hollick.

PC Steve Lemon told councillors that station enquiries officer Debbie Hollamby was kept busy not just dealing with the public but dealing with answer-phone messages, lost, found and stolen property, "and there are quite a few other things she deals with."

Councillor Stuart Hughes thought a police station set in the town centre, would make sense, and had proved successful in other Devon towns.

Town clerk Trina Jarrett asked if councillors wanted to respond to Mr Netherton's letter.

They agreed to point out how much work Debbie carried out at the police station, express concerns that a decision had already been made to cut Sidmouth's hours to 20, to consider selling the Temple Street premises and move to the town centre, thus giving police a more visible profile and a one-stop-shop.

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