U-turn on weekend police hours?

Pontefract Police Station. (p605a230)
Pontefract Police Station. (p605a230)

CONTROVERSIAL cost-cutting plans to slash opening hours at Castleford and Pontefract police stations could see front desks stay open on Saturday morning.

West Yorkshire Police announced plans in May to close the two station inquiry desks at weekends and cut weekday opening hours to 10am to 6pm – from 7am to midnight at Pontefract and 8am to 6pm at Castleford.

But at a Wakefield Council overview and scrutiny committee on Monday, Ch Sup Int Andy Battle said cuts to the town’s stations went “too far”.

He said: “What we’ve found is that beyond the core hours people don’t seem to come with enquiries.

“Overnight, people only tend to visit the custody suite if they are friends of people who have been arrested, or solicitors representing those who have been arrested.

“We’ve been lobbying to include Saturday mornings at Pontefract and Castleford, to coincide with the market days when we believe the stations are quite well-used.

“The funding for this would come from our divisional 
budget.”

The plans were announced after a survey found that eight out of ten people in West Yorkshire had not visited a front desk in the last 12 months.

The cost-cutting measures are part of police efforts to cut £96m from their budget by 2015 due to government cuts.

Ch Supt Battle stressed that neighbourhood police teams (NPT) would still be policing their areas throughout the night.

He said: “This almost feels intuitively wrong, but when you look at the facts and figures it supports these new opening hours.

“These are not easy decisions but we’ve had a long, hard look at the facts and figures.

“What we’ve found is that beyond the core hours people don’t seem to come with 
enquiries.”

Councillors and members urged the police to make clear to people how they can report crimes while stations are closed, such as through the non-emergency 101 phone number.

Co-opted member Beryl Timlin said: “If you make this decision you have got to really publicise what people can do so that they can feel safe.”