West Midlands Police is making savings that will protect policing services in Walsall.
In a bid to save taxpayers millions of pounds on underused buildings and keep police officers on the beat, nine police bases and operational stations in Walsall are to close and be sold off over the next two years.
The proposals were discussed at last week’s meeting of the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner’s Strategic Policing and Crime Board.
It will mean that, in a series of phased moves stretching over the next two years, the following stations and bases will close: Green Lane, Brownhills and Willenhall police stations, and Delves, Ryecroft Place, University of Wolverhampton, Hope Street, Blakenall and Bentley Lane police bases.
The green light was also given to the borough’s policing teams sharing accommodation with the local authority at Walsall Civic Centre, creating a multi-agency ‘one-stop’ shop based in the heart of the community to engage with local people.
Remaining stations and bases include: Bloxwich police station, Aldridge police station, Brownhills’ crime prevention house, Darlaston police station and shared accommodation in partner owned buildings in Caldmore Green and Willenhall.
Additional officers and police staff will move into these stations and bases, covering the whole borough.
As yet no decisions have been made about public front office access, which is being considered as part of a separate forcewide review. As part of this workstream a wide variety of options are being looked into, including technology-based approaches to public contact.
As part of the decision-making process around front offices, extensive public consultation will take place.
West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson said: “Similar to all local authorities, we live in a climate where we all have to make considerable cost savings balanced against protecting service delivery.
“With an estate comprising of over 140 buildings and costing £17.5 million a year to run, it is imperative our buildings meet our current requirements.
“There are 1,300 fewer police officers in West Midlands Police today than there were four years ago. This means some of our buildings are underused and empty much of the time. Buildings are expensive to run and maintain.
“Walsall has a number of police buildings costing millions per year to run, many of which have a huge maintenance backlog. It’s right to ask if we should be spending taxpayers’ money on little used buildings at the expense of officers on the beat.
“Maintaining local policing at a time of reduced funding requires innovation and creativity; like joint community bases for example. West Midlands Police must put the public first in everything it does and it has a responsibility to provide suitable facilities at an acceptable cost. We welcome as many views as possible on this important subject.”
Chief Superintendent David Sturman, area commander for Walsall, said: “In response to cuts to the policing budget, West Midlands Police needs to find substantial cost savings and a forcewide review of police buildings is underway to identify where money can be saved.
“As part of this review, bases in Walsall have been assessed as to their on-going suitability and cost-effectiveness. Many of our current buildings were found to be unfit for purpose and very costly to run.
“A plan was presented to the Police and Crime Commissioner about the changes we want to make to our estate in Walsall to help us meet the savings required. This includes the co-location of some policing services from Green Lane into Walsall Council’s Civic Centre and the loss of half of the Brownhills site.
“In terms of Willenhall police station we are seeking an alternative location with a partner to ensure the team can operate from a base in the town. Front offices are subject to a separate review and as yet, no decisions have been made.
“The changes in our estate will ensure that neighbourhood teams are still working within local communities but may be utilising different premises than we currently do.
“I am confident these changes will still allow us to deliver a high standard of policing to local residents, while contributing towards the substantial savings the force needs to make now and in the years ahead.”