New proposals to bring services direct to local community in Walsall

Walsall civic centreWest Midlands Police is looking at proposals to work with Walsall Council which could potentially herald a wholesale change to the way it delivers services in the area.

Last week the Police and Crime Commissioner Bob Jones alongside representatives from the force met with the council to discuss the proposals that could see the force signing a lease agreement with the council. Under the proposed agreement, Walsall LPU will move its partnerships team and a number of neighbourhood teams to the Civic Centre.

The new proposed partnership approach between the force and the council will mean that services traditionally only available from police stations will be available at the Civic Centre.  The model is based on the Bluebell centre in Solihull, where joint police and council services have been running successfully for approaching 12 months.  If a lease agreement is completed, Walsall police partnerships team could co-locate with the council's partnership team, allowing for a more integrated, joined-up approach to community issues.  The neighbourhood teams for St Matthews, Paddock and Palfrey and Pleck could also move to the Civic Centre bringing them into the heart of Walsall under any proposed arrangement.  The proposed changes could see the creation of a multi-agency 'one-stop' shop based in the heart of the community to engage with local people.

If the plans are agreed and a lease completed the force will move out of Green Lane police station, with the remainder of the neighbourhood teams and functions including 24/7 response moving within the Walsall borough area to Bloxwich police station.  Under the proposed changes Bloxwich police station will become the local police HQ.

The Green Lane site has been under review for some time as it costs the force half a million pounds a year in maintenance costs, diverting resources away from operational policing, exacerbated due to problems with the building itself.

Current estimates are that it will take approximately 18 months to move out of Green Lane but moving into the Civic Centre could potentially be as early as September 2013 for partnerships and the neighbourhood teams.

The 24/7 public access facility at Walsall will remain while the station is operational.  Any re-provisioning of the service will follow a public consultation combined with a full service review - including how people access front counters.  The overall aim will be to create an efficient, modern, accessible service.  Once vacated, the Green Lane site will be disposed of.

"This is an innovative and ground-breaking approach which we believe, if an agreement is signed, will be the start of a whole new approach to providing policing services to the people of Walsall," said Chief Superintendent Dave Sturman, Walsall local policing unit commander.

"The proposed changes provide an opportunity for us to work closely with our council colleagues to support our customers around a range of issues such as domestic abuse, housing problems and anti-social behaviour."

Police and Crime Commissioner Bob Jones said "As a matter of course we continually review our estate to ensure buildings are fit for purpose, cost efficient and provide the best possible service to the wider community.

"We are exploring ways to make policing more accessible in the context of the fact that many police stations are now significantly underused and expensive to run.  Research has shown that some of our buildings are not welcoming and in the wrong location for the public. We are committed to meeting people in settings that are relevant to them, in the heart of the community.

"If these proposals go ahead it will see policing move into the heart of Walsall and will make it easier for people to access local services.  The proposals really do embody the spirit of joint partnership working and will allow police and the council to work even more closely together which can only be of huge benefit to the people of Walsall."

Chief Constable Chris Sims said: "We are working hard to make policing more accessible and the proposed initiative in Walsall will help us to achieve that goal.

"As part of our commitment to modernise the force, coupled with the financial pressures we are likely to face over the forthcoming years, we have to be innovative and creative in the way we provide our services.  Arrangements like the one proposed in Walsall, where police and the council work closer together, offer a better service to local people - creating one stop shops in which a wide range of issues can be dealt with are proving very popular in the local community."