COUNCILLORS have unanimously condemned proposals to close Solihull Police Station.
They have also demanded an extension to the public consultation process.
A Solihull council ‘stronger communities and neighbourhood services’ scrutiny board saw cross-party criticism of the potential closure of the station in Homer Road.
Plans were announced last month by the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner, David Jamieson, to save £5million a year by selling off 24 of the forces’ buildings in a bid to protect 100 officer posts.
Solihull’s station is one of only two public contact offices that could be closed, which has sparked anger across the borough.
The council made clear that members thought the public consultation process – ending on March 20 – has not been long enough to make a considered decision.
Representatives from West Midlands Police said transferring staff to other premises – possibly co-locating in a council owned building – would be ‘cheaper’ and more effective ‘operationally’.
They say it would also enable closer cooperation between the force and the council.
A council officers report to the scrutiny board states: “This decision comes on the back of a significant degradation in policing across Solihull over the last 12 months and at a time when Solihull is seeing a higher than average increase in volume crime.”
As we revealed in November, Solihull saw a 23 per cent rise in crime last year, amid the first rises in the West Midlands region for years.
Councillors also raised concerns about which offices the police proposed moving into, where specialist equipment would be stored and whether police officer numbers in Solihull would be affected.
St Alphege Conservative councillor, Joe Tildesley, said during questioning: “A public meeting is absolutely essential, it can be organised very quickly and I think West Midlands Police will get a rude shock about the strength of feeling from the residents of Solihull.
“210,000 people live in our borough and I look at some of the other proposed closures and I look at some of the proposed stations that are staying open and it is a worry to me that Wolverhampton, Walsall, West Bromwich will be retaining their police stations but we will not.”
“Policing can only be a success if you take the public with you – if you dont get the support of the public with what youre trying to do, policing will suffer.
“We have had some difficulties with our crime rates recently – and now we’ve seen this decision.”
Green councillor, Tim Hodgson said: “It is a massive concern of residents that we just dont have enough officers on the ground and another worry is the potential impact of not having an operational base within the south of the borough.
“I think everyone in this room would agree, we want more resource to go into frontline policing but nevertheless we need an operational base and we need that contact point to be in the town centre.”
The primary representative of West Midlands police was chief superintendent Bas Javid who said: “Our ambition is to locate all of our neighbourhood teams in a partnership building and we have explored many options and a partnership with the local authority is one of those.
“In my experience this is the best option for maximising the operational abilities of officers and neighbourhood services within the local authority.
“I am hopeful that the service provision won’t change until something new has been resourced.
“People and boots on the ground make the difference in addressing crime and to communities.
“If I am given the distinct choice between officers and buildings, I will choose officers every day of the week.”
According to the council, conclusions from the debate will be directed to the PCC David Jamieson who will take them into consideration.