Lincolnshire Police’s decision to shut small town hubs in towns including Caythorpe and Long Bennington criticised by county’s Police and Crime Commissioner Marc Jones
A cost-saving measure to close 17 police hubs, has been criticised by a police and crime commissioner who branded the decision “foolhardy”.
Lincolnshire Police has made the call to lock up 17 mostly unstaffed small police buildings, which it says will save almost £250,000 a year.
It includes hubs in Caythorpe and Long Bennington, alongside others across the county.
However, the Lincolnshire Police and Crime Commissioner Marc Jones, has said it is a short-sighted move that should have been delayed until a new Chief Constable was in place.
Chris Haward departed as Lincolnshire Police’s Chief Constable at the start of February 2024, and while his replacement has not been officially announced, Marc Jones has revealed his preferred candidate for the role is former Lincolnshire Police Assistant Chief Constable and Northampton Police Chief Constable, Paul Gibson.
Mr Jones felt that waiting for the appointment of a new Chief Constable would allow for them to consider the full impact of such a decision, rather than passing it without a leader at the helm of the force.
While this is an operational matter that does not require sign off from the police and crime commissioner, part of the commissioner’s role is to hold the police force to account and ensure targets are delivered.
Mr Jones also expressed concerns at the lack of a public consultation over the closure of these buildings, described as hubs for small towns across Lincolnshire.
These closures reflect another cost pressure for Lincolnshire Police, consistently the lowest funded police force in the country.
“I have always said that it is not just important for people to be safe, they must feel safe as well,” he said.
“It doesn’t matter whether a member of the public uses a station regularly or not — the visible presence is important.
“I knew the force was considering the future use of these stations, which is part of good asset and budget management, but believed that no decisions would be taken before the arrival of the new Chief Constable.
“To have closed them, even if it proves to be on a temporary basis, without proper consultation and understanding of the impact upon our communities is unacceptable.
“My role is to stand up for the people of Lincolnshire and make sure policing is carried out in their best interests.
“This issue proves the value of having a strong, publicly elected representative in post to prevent such arbitrary decisions being made without the public being made aware or considered.”
Marc Jones argues that these savings made by police could be a “false economy” that translates to an average of “a little over £1,000 a month per building,” with fears of higher future maintenance costs.
He says a commitment had already been made to commission the College of Policing for a neighbourhood policing assessment across Lincolnshire, including the force’s use of its buildings, but Lincolnshire Police said an independent piece of research suggested resources were better diverted elsewhere.
“The force can only effectively police the county with the public’s consent,” the commissioner added.
“Maintaining that trust is critical. Making decisions like this without proper explanation or consultation is foolhardy.”
Lincolnshire Police has defended its decision, saying it will contribute towards a large saving of money and that research found the buildings were “barely being used” by police staff or members of the public.
Chief Superintendent Kate Anderson, head of local policing and partnerships, said: “A number of small Lincolnshire Police buildings are not currently in operational use after they were identified as an area of force spend that could offer immediate financial savings.
“Revenue savings of £227,250 per year could be made by not spending on facilities and utilities in these spaces, which research showed were barely being used by the public or police staff.”
The police were also keen to stress that these buildings “have not been sold or fully closed,” with assurances made that communities will be given their say “before any final decision is made” about the sites’ future use.