Plans to place police officers behind security screens in the city’s delayed community hubs have met with anger, the Evening News can reveal.
Critics thought the new hubs were meant to offer a relaxed atmosphere where children can borrow library books alongside people speaking to the police.
But it has emerged their relaxed atmosphere could be shattered due to security shields or grilles being installed. Politicians fear the move could undermine the community feel of the centres and deter people from using them.
Public counters at Corstorphine and Craigmillar police stations were due to close two months ago, with services moving to the council’s community hubs in Drumbrae and Niddrie Mains Road as part of a cost-cutting exercise, which involves seven police stations in Edinburgh and the Lothians being closed to the public.
Police chiefs say part of the delay is because the new counters – including “safety and security features” – have yet to be designed, priced and built. They said those features could include “some sort of screen” – which would make people with worrying or confidential gripes to air feel more comfortable.
But Lothian Labour MSP Kezia Dugdale said: “If they are planning to put up a glass or plastic screen in the middle of what is a very open and accessible space, that is completely ridiculous.
“The whole idea of the hub is that it’s a relaxed place with a welcoming feel to it. You can pay your council tax bill, borrow a library book, have a cup of coffee and maybe speak to a police officer. If they put up a screen between them and the people, they should expect people not to use it.”
Edinburgh West Liberal Democrat MP Mike Crockart said he had assumed the police would use an ordinary desk or a meeting room to talk to people. He said: “If you are talking about building some major structure and a member of staff behind a screen it doesn’t really fit with the idea of a family-friendly neighbourhood centre.
“I had not considered the need for some new sort of structure – and if that was always their intention, I’m flabbergasted they have not worked out what it will look like and how much it will cost.
“It shows once again this is a half-baked policy. To decide on a course of action without that kind of planning is madness.”
Edinburgh police commander Chief Superintendent Mark Williams said Corstorphine and Craigmillar stations would remain open until the hubs were ready. He said: “We need time to put in place equipment, IT, and safety and security features for our staff. We have to build the counters. These are not things we will rush in a haphazard way.”