Police counters shut 560 times in six months

Leith police station's coutner was frequently closed
Leith police station's coutner was frequently closed
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POLICE counters in the Capital were closed on hundreds of occasions when they should have been open to the public, new figures have revealed.

In some cases, stations were only open for around one-fifth of the time they were supposed to be.

The figures show the 11 public counters in Edinburgh were shut unexpectedly 561 times over a six-month period.

The counter at Leith police station was closed or partially closed on 130 days out of 184.

In 2014, Police Scotland launched a major programme of public counter cutbacks, including a proposal to close ten counters across Lothian and reduce opening hours at others.

An Evening News campaign succeeded in reversing the plans to shut the counters at South Queensferry, Linlithgow and Tranent – the only ones in mainland Scotland to be saved.

And last year the police also said the counters at Corstorphine and Craigmillar police stations would stay open despite plans to transfer services to local neighbourhood hubs.

The latest figures, obtained by the Liberal Democrats under Freedom of Information, show that across the city, in the six months to the end of December, there were 260 full-day closures and 301 part-day closures against advertised opening hours.

Lib Dem justice spokeswoman Alison McInnes said the statistics laid bare the impact of the SNP’s policing reforms and showed how stretched police staff had become.

She said around 60 stations had shut their doors to the public altogether in 2014, adding: “We were told this would improve accessibility and consistency but now we have uncovered that the remaining police public counters are regularly closed.

“In Edinburgh alone, they were unexpectedly shut on 561 occasions, when they should have been open to members of the local community.

“These figures are shocking. The suspicion must be that staff have been pulled off the public counters in order to plug gaps elsewhere in the system.”

The statistics, show that only two stations – St Leonard’s and Gayfield – were open at all the intended times.

Leith had its counter closed for 21 full days and 111 part days; Wester Hailes for 15 full days and 75 part days; and Corstorphine for 37 full days and 29 part days.

West End police station counter was shut for 48 full days; South Queensferry for 47 full days; Portobello for 35 full days; Howdenhall for 37 full days; Craigmillar for 19 full days; and Drylaw ten full days.

Chief Superintendent Kenny MacDonald, the City of Edinburgh divisional commander, said: “We try to maintain our front counter service whenever we can and on the vast majority of occasions we do achieve this. However, the number of people using this service has significantly reduced and, as such, it would be inappropriate to take officers from frontline duties in order to staff front counters. This does mean that on some occasions this service will be closed.

“If a member of the public calls at a station where the front counter is closed, they will be able to speak to our Service Centre using the free public contact telephone.

“Officers will return to the station if required.”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com