MP condemns plans to close Newcastle police station

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05 Apr 2011

Newcastle’s Labour MP Paul Farrelly has attacked coalition government cuts to Staffordshire police, and plans to close the town’s police station, as outdoing even Margaret Thatcher.

Mr Farrelly’s intervention, in the House of Commons last evening, came in the wake of a re-organisation of the County’s police force finalised yesterday.

Cuts have forced Chief Constable Mike Cunningham to shed 220 staff over the last year, including 65 police officers. Another 100 staff will leave in the coming year, and the force will continue to lose 65 officers a year for the next four years.

Six local police stations also face the axe – alongside Newcastle’s in Merrial Street, stations in Kidsgrove, Burslem, Stoke, Stone and Uttoxeter have been earmarked for closure.

Speaking in a debate on policing, called by Labour on Monday, Mr Farrelly said:

‘Six police stations, including my own in Newcastle, are being closed because of the cuts. These are police stations that survived Margaret Thatcher and are now falling victim to Cameron-Clegg.’

‘In Staffordshire, the protestations that the cuts should not hit front-line services simply sound absurd. From this November, the county, which has a Conservative-run council, is implementing a rule that will force serving police officers, irrespective of rank or experience, to retire once they have reached 30 years’ service.’

A total of 149 officers – from constable all the way up to chief superintendent – will be affected by the enforcement of so-called ‘Regulation A19’ and will have to leave, whether they want to or not.

Despite promising to protect the front line, the government has cut police grants by 20% and forces across the UK have already announced that 12,000 officers will have to go, with 2,000 of Britain’s most experienced officers in all being forcibly retired.

‘I have friends the same age as me, people I’ve known since I grew up in Newcastle, who are being forced out because of the cuts. It’s totally indiscriminate and Staffordshire police will lose expertise where they cannot afford to,’ Mr Farrelly said after the debate.

‘I welcome the Chief Constable’s pledge not to close Newcastle’s police station until an alternative is found. But this is cold comfort for people who are used to a high profile police presence in the town. Even Margaret Thatcher’s regime didn’t threaten its existence like this.’

The Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition has insisted that 20% cuts do not mean hitting frontline policing, but this is at odds with experience in Staffordshire and elsewhere.

‘The government should listen to what the police are telling them. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary has already said that a maximum of 12% can be saved without affecting police availability. Front-loaded cuts of 20% go well beyond that and Chief Constables have been put in an impossible position. Several have already said cuts will take officers away from local neighborhoods and that crime is likely to increase as a result.’