POLICE chiefs planning to close public counters and slash opening hours at stations in the Capital were today warned they must listen to the views of local people.
Councillors across the city voiced concerns about the controversial plans drawn up by the new single police force.
And two former Lothian and Borders police board conveners spoke out to condemn the moves.
Eric Milligan said he backed the Evening News campaign, adding: “I deeply regret that councillors are now reduced to the role of consultee on police matters rather than decision-makers as in the past.”
And Lesley Hinds said: “I have been surprised by the scale of cutbacks proposed by Police Scotland in service provision for the public.
“As a previous convener of Lothian and Borders Police Board I am aware of the work carried out to ensure the posts for public counters and call services were to be carried out by civilian posts. Therefore I am surprised by the comments by the minister [Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill] regarding police officers being responsible for this service.
“This is a consultation process and I hope the Scottish Police Authority and the minister will listen to the public.”
Support is growing for the Evening News Save Our Stations campaign, calling for a rethink on proposals to shut front desks at five police stations used by over 73,000 people a year and cut opening hours at a further three.
Council leader Andrew Burns issued a statement on behalf of the Labour-SNP administration, welcoming the fact Police Scotland was consulting on the proposals, but warning: “As they take forward their plans it’s important that they listen and take account of the views of local people.”
Most councillors responded to the Evening News survey, voicing concerns about the impact of closures and cutbacks. Some SNP councillors defended the proposals, arguing Westminster cuts meant savings had to be made. Several said they were seeking meetings with police chiefs to ask for reassurances.
A few councillors simply sent the coalition statement issued by Cllr Burns.
But Conservative group leader and former police officer Cameron Rose wondered what had changed since Lothian and Borders conducted a review a year ago.
He said: “My concern is that any changes will be driven nationally and not by local considerations. Proposals need to be locally justifiable.”
The stations due to lose their front counters are Craigmillar and Corstorphine – where an alternative service is promised in community hubs – as well as Oxgangs, Balerno and South Queensferry. Opening hours are set to be cut at Portobello, Howdenhall and West End.
Green group leader Steve Burgess said public concerns needed to be addressed by before any counters were closed.
Liberal Democrat Paul Edie said that, as a former chair of community safety, he had real concerns at the direction in which policing services were heading. He said: “A local presence is vital to providing a good service to the public.”
Liberton/Gilmerton Labour councillor Bill Cook said the case had not been made for the closures and cutbacks.
He said: “People are reassured by face-to-face contact with the police. I was previously on Lothian and Borders Police Board and repeatedly questioned what would happen to assets when they were transferred over to Police Scotland, particularly those not deemed essential for policing by Police Scotland.
“The contrast consultation-wise is stark. Previously councillors had a real influence on decisions like this. That appears to have gone with the formation of Police Scotland.”
Tory Iain Whyte, who was the last Lothian and Borders Police convener, said he could not comment since he is a member of the Scottish Police Authority, but said: “I expect a report will come to us detailing the proposals and showing the results of any consultation. I want to look at that before I take a view.”
What your representatives are saying
Elaine Aitken (Con, Colinton/Fairmilehead): “It is important that the public are confident that good lines of communication are in place before a final decision is made.”
Robert Aldridge (Lib Dem, Drum Brae/Gyle): “The proposals are only likely to increase public frustration.”
Norma Austin Hart (Lab, Liberton/Gilmerton): “Local people certainly think it’s important to have a police station to go to.”
Jeremy Balfour (Con, Corstorphine/ Murrayfield): Lines of communication need to improve before looking at reducing stations.
Gavin Barrie (SNP, Inverleith): Coalition statement.
Angela Blacklock (Lab, Leith Walk): “People do like to go into their local police station if they want to report something.”
Chas Booth (Green, Leith): “Police Scotland have not presented the evidence to justify the closures.”
Mike Bridgman (SNP, Portobello/Craigmillar): “Whether the alternative is enough or not remains to be seen.”
Deidre Brock (SNP, Leith Walk): “I feel confident Police Scotland will very carefully weigh up any decisions they take.”
Steve Burgess (Green, Southside/Newington): “Concerns need to be addressed by Police Scotland before they close any counter.”
Andrew Burns (Lab, Fountainbridge/ Craiglockhart): Coalition statement.
Steve Cardownie (SNP, Forth): “I don’t believe the police would make any decisions that would seriously impact on people’s safety.”
Maggie Chapman (Green, Leith Walk, above): “A step in the wrong direction.”
Bill Cook (Lab, Liberton/Gilmerton, below): “I’m opposed. I don’t believe the case has been made.”
Nick Cook (Con, Liberton/Gilmerton): “Crime doesn’t operate on an 8am-6pm basis. Neither should the local police station counter.”
Gavin Corbett (Green, Fountainbridge/Craig-lockhart): “If there is a case for the Oxgangs closure, I’ve not yet seen it made with any credibility.”
Cammy Day (Lab, Forth): “I’m keen to push for alternatives rather than complete closure.”
Denis Dixon (SNP, Sighthill/Gorgie): “If front desks are going to go you have to make sure the 101 call system is working 100 per cent.”
Karen Doran (Lab, City Centre): “It makes us feel safer to know police station counters are there.”
Paul Edie (Lib Dem, Corstorphine/ Murrayfield, right): “A local presence is vital to providing a good service to the public.”
Nick Gardner (Lab, Leith Walk): “I’m following the lead of Cllrs Burns and Cardownie in working with the police.”
Paul Godzik (Lab, Meadows/Morningside): “There is a great deal of community concern, which I share.”
Joan Griffiths (Craigentinny/Duddingston): Coalition statement.
Bill Henderson (SNP, Pentland Hills): “The priority is to keep communities safe.”
Ricky Henderson (Lab, Pentland Hills): “I do oppose the closures and cutbacks - it’s a point of contact people like to have.”
Dominic Heslop (Con, Pentland Hills): “The concept of community policing is being destroyed.”
Lesley Hinds (Lab, Inverleith, above right): “I hope the Scottish Police Authority and Minister will listen to the public.”
Sandy Howat (SNP, Meadows/Morningside, left): “Your campaign will be welcomed by the public.”
Richard Lewis (SNP, Colinton/Fairmilehead): “One has to be careful not just to react to what looks like a good thing to jump behind.”
Alex Lunn (Lab, Craigentinny/Duddi-ngston): “There are other ways money could be saved.”
Mark McInnes (Con, Meadows/Morningside): “Absolutely opposed.”
Adam McVey (SNP, Leith): “I am looking for assurances that Edinburgh’s communities will not be adversely affected.”
Eric Milligan (Lab, Sighthill/Gorgie, main): “I deeply regret that councillors are reduced to the role of consultee.”
Joanna Mowat (Con, City Centre, left): “This needs to be more than a cost benefit analysis.”
Gordon Munro (Lab, Leith): “There may be merit in co-location with other council services.”
Lindsay Paterson (Con, Almond): “I would like to see much wider consultation.”
Ian Perry (Lab, Southside/Newington, below): “I oppose these closures and cutbacks.”
Keith Robson (Lab, Liberton/Gilmerton): Coalition statement.
Cameron Rose (Con, Southside/Newington): “Proposals need to be locally justifiable.”
Frank Ross (SNP, Corstorphine/Murrayfield): “I have requested a meeting with the local commander.”
Jason Rust (Con, Colinton/Fairmilehead, below): “I am looking for reassurance this is not simply a fait accompli.”
Alastair Shields (Lib Dem, Almond): “I am very much against any form of closures or reductions in hours.”
Stefan Tymkewycz (SNP, Craigentinny/Duddingston): “The police budget is under extreme pressure from the cuts imposed by Westminster.”
Norman Work (SNP, Almond): “Savings have to be made.”
Ronald Cairns (SNP, Drum Brae/Gyle) was unavailable due to illness.
The following members declined to give a view:
Nigel Bagshaw (Green, Inverleith);
Cathy Fullerton (SNP, Sighthill/Gorgie);
Allan Jackson (Con, Forth); Iain Whyte (Con, Inverleith).
The following were unavailable:
Maureen Child (Lab, Portobello/Craigmillar);
Jim Orr (SNP, Southside/Newington).
The following did not respond:
Karen Keil (Lab, Drum Brae/Gyle);
David Key (SNP, Fountainbridge/Craiglockhart);
Melanie Main (Green, Meadows/Morningside);
Alasdair Rankin (SNP, City Centre);
Vicki Redpath (Lab, Forth);
David Walker (Lab, Portobello/Craigmillar);
Donald Wilson (Lab, Sighthill/Gorgie)
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0131-620 8733, or call into the offices at 108 Holyrood Road.
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.”