Ex-police board chief says manned desks vital

Iain Whyte said some changes could enhance the service but demand was the crucial factor. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Iain Whyte said some changes could enhance the service but demand was the crucial factor. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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POLICE counters should remain open where there is public demand for them, a member of the Scottish Police Authority said today.

In a clear endorsement of our hard-hitting campaign to keep counters open, Edinburgh Conservative councillor Iain Whyte – who was the last convener of Lothian and Borders police board before the merger of Scotland’s eight forces earlier this year – described manned desks as crucial.

He said: “Where evidence suggests that the public are still accessing their local office to report a crime or to engage with the police then I would expect an office to remain a crucial
element of a local service.”

More than 100,000 people a year use the ten Lothian stations set to have their counters axed – Craigmillar, Corstorphine, Oxgangs, Balerno, South Queensferry, Bonnyrigg, Tranent, Linlithgow, Armadale and West Calder. Another seven Lothian stations are to have their opening hours slashed.

Police services at Craigmillar and Corstorphine, both currently open from 7am to midnight, are to transfer to neighbourhood hubs, but details of opening hours have yet to be worked out.

Cllr Whyte said sharing premises with libraries and other council services could mean an improved service to the public at less cost. But he said details of how the changes would work should be made public before any decision is taken.

He added that he would like to see alternative points of contact for the public established in the areas which are scheduled to lose their counters altogether.

The counter closures and cutbacks are widely seen as a prelude to possible station closures. Cllr Whyte said: “I’m not aware of any proposals around that (closing stations). All these things are under review.

“The reassurance is that officers will have to have somewhere to work from that will be close enough to the areas they are policing.”

Police Scotland has asked for public comments on the proposed counter closures and cutbacks by October 31. In the meantime, droves of concerned residents have thrown their support behind our Save Our Stations campaign. Cllr Whyte added: “I’m confident the authority and the chief constable will look at what people say, take into account the implications of what they say and consider that carefully in coming to any decision. That doesn’t mean they will agree with everything, but any changes must be balanced and take into account the needs of the public.”

However, it is still not clear who will have the ultimate say on the shake-up. Chief Constable Sir Stephen House has stressed the “operational” nature of the changes and argued the final decision should be his, while Vic Emery, chairman of the Scottish Police Authority said when it comes to the “emotive” matter of closures, the SPA board had to have an input.

Cllr Whyte believes the issue will be resolved by “discussion and debate”.

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How you can help

Back the campaign by displaying a poster and signing the petition, which is already available to sign at several locations including:

• The Mill at St Joseph’s, the cafe beside Balerno Parish Church;

• Balerno Garage Ltd, Deanpark Brae;

• Sideburns Barber Shop, Oxgangs Broadway, Oxgangs;

• Craigmillar Post Office, Niddrie Mains Road.

To receive a petition and poster e-mail kate.pickles@jpress.co.uk or call 0131-620 8733, or call into the offices at 108 Holyrood Road.

You can also download a poster by clicking here

Email the following to SoS@edinburghnews.com along with your name and address

“Dear Sir Stephen House,

I want my local police station to stay open to the public. Please think again.”