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8 December 2015, 09:45
Essex Police has confirmed it is to close 15 police station front counters - more than half that are currently open in the county.
The proposals had been set out in October as part of plans to save £63 million pounds by 2020.
Those plans also included reducing the number of PCSOs from around 250 to 60, although this is now being reviewed after the Chancellor announced in his Autumn Statement there would be no further funding cuts to police forces.
Essex Police says 10 front counters will remain open: Grays, Basildon, Southend, Harlow, Chelmsford, Braintree, Colchester and Clacton (all Monday to Sunday) Maldon, Saffron Walden (both Monday to Friday).
It also says six operational policing bases will remain but without front counters in Loughton, Brentwood, Canvey Island, Great Dunmow, Rayleigh and Harwich. The front counters scheduled for closure will be closed by April 2016.
It means the ones to go are: Billericay, Brentwood, Canvey Island, Epping, Great Dunmow, Halstead, Harwich, Loughton, Pitsea, Southminster, South Ockendon, South Woodham Ferrers, Tilbury and Witham.
The move will also see the 62 jobs go.
Chief Constable Stephen Kavanagh said: "I want to pay tribute to the commitment and professionalism of Customer Contact Administrators before throughout and since the consultation process, and thank those who may be leaving the organisation over the next few months for their service to Essex Police and the public in our county.”
"The financial outlook might be slightly brighter than we thought in the autumn, but Essex Police still needs to change. We spend too much on too many police buildings, many of which are either no longer fit for policing or are hardly used by the public to report crime. Police officers, not buildings, fight crime and the confirmation today of proposals the PCC and I made in October provide for a police estate fit for the future ready to cope with changes in crime and technology.
"I understand the views of people we’ve spoken to in the last few months who are worried that losing their police station will make them feel less safe, but the reality is the opposite is true: every expensive and outdated building which isn’t well-used by the public we keep open means fewer officers on patrol stopping crime and helping vulnerable people.”
Nick Alston, Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex, said: "I have met and spoken with many Customer Contact Administrators, and their professionalism has always shone through.
"It is clear though that the Essex Police property estate is currently haemorrhaging millions of pounds of public money every year which should be spent on preventing and solving crime. We have too many old and often poorly maintained buildings which are no longer fit for a modern police service.
"Extensive work is currently underway to ensure that the people of Essex will be able to contact their police force in more modern ways, whilst still preserving the option of telephone and face-to-face contact for those who prefer it.
"It is always sad when dedicated colleagues face the risk of redundancy, but with Essex Police significantly reducing the number of police station front counters, a reduction in the number of Customer Contact Administrator posts was, regrettably, the inevitable result.
"I welcome Essex Police’s decision to pause until early in 2016 the proposal to reduce the numbers of PCSOs, in light of the need to consider further information about the budget which will be provided by the government later this month.
"The drive to ensure Essex Police is fit not only for today, but for the future, will continue.
"Essex Police must continue to adapt and respond to the changing nature of crime – be it terrorist threats, cybercrime and online grooming, or serious violence perpetrated by organised criminal gangs and, most sadly, in the context of domestic abuse.
"Equally, Essex Police must remain closely connected with the people of our county and involved in working with partner agencies in solving local problems."