Police stations earmarked for closure under Northern Constabulary cost-cutting plans
The police stations in Scalloway and Dunrossness could close as part of a major £4.7 million cost-cutting exercise across the Northern Constabulary area.
Opening times at the Lerwick station could also be halved to just 12 hours per day, with calls made to Lerwick outwith those hours being diverted to Wick.
Northern Constabulary is seeking a nine per cent cut in its budget – a total saving of £4,714,941 – in 2011/2012 in response to the public spending squeeze.
Further five per cent reductions will be sought for another three years, potentially threatening other smaller stations in the future.
Proposals are being made to cut the number of uniformed officers across the force.
There are no immediate plans to reduce officer numbers here, althought that may change in the future.
But the jobs of three civilian staff are under threat, with the force seeking voluntary redundancies.
Police in Lerwick today sought to re-assure the public, insisting officers will maintain a strong presence in Shetland.
Inspector Eddie Graham said closing the Dunrossness station made sense as only a handful of people went through its doors on a regular basis.
He said plans to set up a small unit at Sumburgh Airport would give police a stronger presence at the south end.
“At the moment if you look at the volume of people who go into Dunrossness Station it’s not particularly high,” he said.
“We can achieve far more contact within the airport environment and it’s an opportunity to increase our visible presence in that area.”
Visitor numbers to Scalloway have been similarly low, he said. A “single-point contact” – where a Lerwick-based officer is also designated to undertake duties in Scalloway – should offer re-assurance, the inspector added.
“Surgery” meetings with the public are also being considered as an option.
He said the impact being felt in Scalloway, with the secondary department of the Junior High School under threat of closure, meant a strong level of service should be maintained there.
“We appreciate there are other dynamics in relation to Scalloway and it is taking quite a hit from other directions at this moment in time, so there will be public concern about how we will provide a service to the public of Scalloway, which they are entitled to.”
The Lerwick station will remain open at “peak times, when the public wants us to be open,” the inspector said.
“I’d like to re-assure people that if they pick up the phone and dial the police then they are going to get a response. That response outwith the proposed opening times would be diverted to the divisional headquarters at Wick, which will be staffed 24 hours a day.
“However at this time there will be no reduction in police numbers. Police officers themselves can’t be made redundant, however there is a proposal to consider what we call a Regulation 19 that officers that have achieved 30 years service can possibly be retired. It is a proposal on the table across the force.”
He refused to be drawn on how future cuts might impact on stations in the outer isles, although the need to trim budgets in future years could well make further closures possible.
“What I would say is that we will be maintaining our stations on the islands at this moment in time,” he said.
He added: “Because of the national picture and the severe financial cuts that are coming to bear we have to look at where we can make these savings. The only place left is stations and staff.
“The force itself and the chief constable is committed to maintaining the frontline uniform presence. That is our number one priority in this process.
“Our commitment is obviously the high visibility of officers on the street having contact with the public.”
Shetland representative on the Northern Joint Police Board, south end councillor Allison Duncan, said he had “no problems” with closing the Dunrossness station.
“It’s a positive move rather than a negative move because a hub will be opened at the terminal, and discussions with HIAL [Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd] are well advanced in that respect.
“There will be more of a police presence in the airport and that’s a welcome move, especially when you’ve maybe got illicit substances coming through the airport. It might help alleviate the serious problems we have in Shetland with drugs.”
He said the officer stationed at Dunrossness had spent much of his time in Lerwick anyway.
He added research had shown the number of people attending the Lerwick station outwith the planned opening hours had been no higher than 16 at any one time.
In total 16 stations across the Highlands and Islands as well as the Northern Isles are earmarked for closure.
The force is currently consulting with staff and partners with feedback due for consideration at a Northern Joint Police Board meeting in Inverness next month.