Police station opening hours to be slashed?

CUTTING police station opening hours and providing more services online will form part of Sussex Police's multi-million pound savings drive.

In September the force announced it would shed some 500 police officers and 550 staff countywide in a bid to save £52 million over the next five years.

And after the government’s Comprehensive Spending Review confirmed the police budget will be cut by 16 per cent over the next four years, more details of the local plans emerged at a meeting of the Sussex Police Authority (SPA).

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As well as the job cuts, recruitment for both police officers and police community support officers has been frozen, promotion within the force has been suspended and overtime will be cut.

In addition, Chief Constable Martin Richards said paperwork would be reduced to free up officers’ time and much more use would be made of the internet to report crimes and arrange appointments.

The number of people using police stations will be reviewed and Bexhill police station in Terminus Road, which is currently open between 10am and 8pm on weekdays, and 10am to 6pm on Saturdays, could see its opening hours slashed along with others across the county.

In a report for the SPA, Mr Richards wrote: “Adjusting front office opening hours in existing reception areas to eight hours a day, would save around £1million per annum.

“These savings could be doubled if the force moves to a system of part call-in and part planned appointments.”

Sussex Police will consider having more police drop-in sessions in community facilities, or having contact points in town halls.

Mr Richards said: “We have to be prepared to think differently about how to police Sussex and it is vitally important that we get the public’s views on any changes.

“We will continue to put the public’s needs at the heart of policing in Sussex.

“Policing will be different but I am equally confident that policing will be enhanced.”

He said that planning for the government cuts had been going on for a year and he praised the “maturity” of the staff with whom he had discussed the changes.