Police plan to close station counters on hold

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CONTROVERSIAL plans to close police station counters have been postponed for two months.

Police chiefs confirmed they have done a U-turn on proposals which would have seen South Queensferry and Linlithgow stations closed to the public.

The move followed the Evening News Save Our Stations campaign which attracted more than 1200 signatures.

And now none of the planned closures will go ahead until March so that further public comments can be considered.

Police Scotland announced on October 1 it wanted to close 65 station counters across the country, including ten in Edinburgh and the Lothians, as part of a cost-cutting drive. Assistant Chief Constable Wayne Mawson, who drew up the closure plans, told a Scottish Police Authority board meeting yesterday that implementation of the counter closures had been now delayed from the original January date.

He said the month-long consultation period had officially ended. But he told the board: “We are keen to be seen as a listening organisation so while the consultation period did come to an end on October 31 we have continued to listen and accept comments for a further four to six weeks and that will end in mid-December.

“We were going to move to implementation on January 6, but to allow these additional views to be considered what we are now saying is implementation in early March.”

Mr Mawson said five of the original proposals had been changed, including South Queensferry and Linlithgow, which will now maintain their current opening hours, Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm.

“The new Forth crossing and the significant impact that is having on the community currently and in the future was one of the factors influencing that decision,” he said.

The proposals still include closing counters completely at Oxgangs, Balerno, Bonnyrigg, Tranent, Armadale and West Calder and switching services from Craigmillar and Corstorphine stations to local neighbourhood hubs.

Conservative councillor and former Lothian and Borders police board convener Iain Whyte asked about Evening News reports of more than 100,000 people a year using the stations earmarked to lose their counters. Chief Superintendent Craig Naylor said he “did not recognise” the 100,000 total and claimed the figure was only about a quarter of that. But the News calculations were based solely on the figures in Police Scotland’s own document on the closure plans, which gave the number of people visiting each police station over different periods.

The police prefer to quote figures for “core demand” visits – which exclude matters like reporting a crime or an accident and focus only on tasks which cannot be carried out without visiting a station, like bail reporting or firearms surrender.