Police chiefs 'showing complete contempt' for communities over plans to close stations
Police chiefs have been accused of showing "complete contempt" for communities over plans to shut down eight police stations.
The stations, which include Aldridge, Oldbury, Tipton, Wednesfield, and four in Birmingham, were due to close this year as part of West Midlands Police's controversial estates programme.
However the scheme, which has already seen more than 70 police stations and bases close over the last decade, has now been pushed back due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
It was brought in by West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) David Jamieson and Chief Constable Dave Thompson in a bid to save officer jobs in the wake of budget cuts.
In March 2018 a total of 24 stations were earmarked for closure. They include Smethwick, which is due to go in 2021, while Wednesbury is scheduled to close the following year.
Tories in the Black Country have today called for clarity on the PCC's plans for the stations.
West Bromwich West MP Shaun Bailey, said: "I have been disgusted by this PCC's complete contempt for communities like mine in Wednesbury and Tipton, and his willingness to prioritise his ivory tower at Lloyd House, as opposed to the safety of the most vulnerable communities in the Black Country.
"His argument simply does not hold any sway with my constituents, particularly given this PCC determination to push ahead with drug consumption rooms and constant building refurbishment."
Aldridge and Brownhills MP Wendy Morton, who is campaigning to keep Aldridge Police Station open, said: "Local police stations are at the very heart of responsive community policing. At a time when we have secured millions of pounds of extra police funding from the Government, it would be wrong that residents in Aldridge would be left without a policing base.
"Aldridge, with its distinct character, needs a proper police station embedded in the community."
Jane Stevenson, MP for Wolverhampton North East, said: "Local people in Wednesfield want a strong, visible police presence, and the reassurance of a local police station they can access."
Jay Singh-Sohal, the Conservative candidate for West Midlands PCC, has vowed to keep stations open if he is elected next year.
He said: "Communities across the region are desperate to keep their police stations and with it the local police presence that it brings. Crime is ever-increasing and surrendering our stations would incentivise criminals and do more harm.
"I know I can do more with the police stations we have, and I will invest in them to benefit the communities they serve.
"The argument that these closures will save money simply does not wash for taxpayers who are paying more in policing precept annually."
Waheed Saleem, Labour's deputy PCC for the West Midlands, said: "We have lost over 2,200 officers since 2010 and are only due to get just over half of them back.
"Police buildings have to be downsized because of government cuts, nevertheless it is likely that the estates programme will be delayed by the Covid crisis.
"Due to the huge cuts we have faced over the last decade we have had to prioritise officer numbers over largely empty buildings. It is a shame that many people who supported and voted for cuts to policing are now complaining about the consequences of them."
The closures were criticised by senior Labour figures last year, with then Shadow Policing Minister Louise Haigh saying the scheme had made people feel "very distant" from the police.
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