THE FIGHT to save local police stations across the region, including Solihull’s, stepped up a gear this week.
West Midlands MPs have joined forces against the ‘unnecessary action’.
Solihull MP Julian Knight says he has rallied Conservative MPs to oppose plans by Labour’s Police and Crime Commissioner, David Jamieson, to slash community police stations.
Plans were announced by the PCC to save £5 million a year by selling off 24 of the forces’ buildings in a bid to protect 100 pfficer posts across the force.
Among the buildings listed for sale were the Homer Road station and the Acocks Green station.
This follows previous closures of police bases in Shirley, Balsall Common, and Chelmsley Wood.
The PCC’s plans also stated the stations would not close until a more ‘efficient’ one was able to open nearby and these could be with other public sector bodies such as the NHS or the fire service.
A letter, signed by six MPs including Dame Caroline Spelman, urges the PCC to reconsider the “short-sighted and unnecessary” decision and “use your new powers – or substantial reserves – to protect our local police stations.”
The MPs say West Midlands Police will see an increase in funding of £9.5 million from the government, on top of Mr Jamieson’s £100 million cash reserves.
They also highlighted the PCC’s decision to spend £33 million renovating Lloyd House, his own headquarters.
Mr Knight said: “Local police stations are at the very heart of responsive community policing. At a time when West Midlands MPs have secured millions of pounds of extra police funding, it’s ridiculous that Solihull will be left without a single station in the entire borough.
“A town of Solihull’s size and distinct character needs a proper police station embedded in the community. My colleagues and I are determined not to allow him to ignore the concerns of local residents.”
Mr Knight has also accused the PCC of trying to push the plans through without proper consultation.
According to the Solihull MP Mr Jamieson has given stakeholders only 18 working days to respond.
Mr Jamieson also said police commanders will discuss the proposed changes with their communities during a month long engagement period.
Dame Caroline said: “What’s clear from this decision is that the Police and Crime Commissioner has got his priorities for Solihull Borough muddled to say the very least.
“Although Solihull Police station is not in my constituency, it does serve as a ‘first port of call’ for many local residents. To close all police stations in the borough without thorough and fair public consultation is totally unacceptable – particularly at a time when an additional £450 million has been made available to police forces nationally to help fight crime and the PCC is sitting on over £100 million in readily available cash reserves.
“It is critical that the Chief Constable and PCC are made aware of the strength of feeling locally on the matter and I would encourage local residents to sign our petition on this issue”.
When making the announcement Mr Jamieson said he was having to find ways to protect officer numbers after heavy government funding cuts to police forces since the Tories came to power in 2010.
He added: “After £145 million cuts since 2010 and with the level of funding from government being squeezed year on year, I am having to continue to find efficiencies to protect officer numbers.
“Crime is changing and I need to ensure West Midlands Police has an estate that is equipped to help officers and staff respond to those crimes. Whilst the threats we face change, the public still need access to their police. That is why these proposals ensure that the current number of public contact offices will be maintained.”
A final decision will be made after the Strategic Policing and Crime Board meeting on March 20.
West Midlands Police told the Observer any Silhillians who want to have their say should email Claire.firstname.lastname@example.org
For more on Mr Knight and Dame Caroline’s petition visit www.change.org/p/david-jamieson-west-midlands-police-and-crime-commissioner-protect-services-at-solihull-police-station.