Article by Guy Bell: A petition has been launched to save Billericay police station from closure, a decision that would be "devastating" for the town.
Police and Crime Commissioner Nick Alston confirmed this week that some stations will close, citing huge maintenance costs.
Gavin Callaghan, Labour's Parliamentary Candidate for Basildon and Billericay, has started a petition to save the High Street station, branding the move "madness."
[quote width="auto" align="none" border="#0066cc" color="#0066cc" title="Quoted by Mr Callaghan"]Last week, following a meeting in Basildon, it was announced there was a plan to reduce costs, meaning stations are under threat. Nick Alston was proposing one police station for each borough, in this case Basildon, which is madness. He tweeted to say he will announce which stations could close after the elections.[/quote]
The ward councillor for Pitsea North West in Basildon says he is going to write to Mr Alston, asking him to be "up front and honest" about the proposal.
[quote width="auto" align="none" border="#0066cc" color="#0066cc" title="Quoted by Mr Callaghan"]In Billericay crime is rising, especially with the street lighting being switched off. Burglary numbers have risen. This is the wrong time to reduce police presence across Billericay.[/quote]
Cllr Callaghan suggested the lack of an announcement over the possible closure was due to the upcoming elections.
[quote width="auto" align="none" border="#0066cc" color="#0066cc" title="Quoted by"]People use that station and it has an important place in the community. It offers advice and help and if it closes then victims will have a very, very long way to go to Basildon. If you reduce the estate then you are transforming the nature of policing, as it will no longer be local policing. It would be devastating for people in Billericay.[/quote]
The station is open six days a week, between noon and 6pm.
'No firm decisions'
Basildon Council leader Phil Turner is also hoping the station remains open.
[quote width="auto" align="none" border="#0066cc" color="#0066cc" title="Quoted by Mr Turner"]At the moment there are no firm decisions and it is currently being negotiated. There is a police presence in Billericay and therefore I am not advocating closing the police station today or in the future. Although Billericay is a low-crime area, policing has been done to good effect.[/quote]
Cllr Turner is also certain that the building can be used for a number of purposes and, should it stay open, the people of Billericay will retain the station they are familiar with.
[quote width="auto" align="none" border="#0066cc" color="#0066cc" title="Quoted b Cllr Turner"]The actual station can be used for all sorts of things. There is a use for it and Nick Alston is looking for efficiencies. If the station in Billericay stays, it gives us a presence and a service that the people of Billericay know and love.[/quote]
Mr Alston insisted no decision has yet been made on any closures but admitted the maintenance costs were too high to deal with.
[quote width="auto" align="none" border="#0066cc" color="#0066cc" title="Quoted by Mr Alston"]I have made no secret of the fact that there is currently an ongoing review of the 80 properties that form part of the Essex Police estate. That review is nearing completion but as yet no decisions on the future of any police stations in our county have been finalised. On this point I cannot be clearer. However, I have not and will not shy away from the fact that many of the current buildings are old, in need of expensive maintenance and are not fit for the purposes of a modern police force. Each year £1.75 million of maintenance is needed to keep the estate in its current condition and the backlog of work required totals around £30 million.[/quote]
Mr Alston said he faces "some very tough decisions" on the future of police stations.
[quote width="auto" align="none" border="#0066cc" color="#0066cc" title="Quoted by Mr Alston"]Undoubtedly some stations will close. But I'm sure everyone will be in agreement that, as dearly as some people hold their police stations, it is the officers and not the buildings that catch criminals. I have a responsibility to ensure that those officers have the support of modern buildings and technology to deal with the many new and emerging challenges they face.[/quote]
Article in Billericay Gazette, Guy Bell