A COUNCILLOR has branded a reduction in a police station's opening hours as "ludicrous" and says the move will put public safety "at risk".

On Monday morning, the St Helens Police Facebook page announced that the opening hours at Newton-le-Willows station had been "changed".

The station on Market Street, Earlestown would now be open to the public "between 8am and 4pm on Fridays" for those who "want to speak to someone face to face", the post said.

It said the station on College Street in St Helens town centre remains open seven days a week and that the enquiry office at Huyton Police Station in Knowsley is also open seven days a week.

Newton ward councillor Seve Gomez-Aspron has hit out at the change, saying it would result in the town's police station being "essentially closed".

Cllr Gomez-Aspron said: “There are two town centres in this borough. Newton-le-Willows is a town with a population of 25,000, St Helens North serves around 80,000. We have had a police station since the mid 1800s. The idea that our police station can be sidelined and essentially closed is ludicrous.

"I and the other Labour Councillors in Newton-le-Willows will oppose this wholeheartedly."

Cllr Gomez-Aspron also expressed disappointment that the change was announced via social media.

He added: "It is not acceptable that we found out on social media.

"If the police are serious in commending their 'county lines' work, then how on earth does it make sense to shut the police station in Merseyside furthest east?

"We will be raising this with both our MP and the Police and Crime Commissioner Jane Kennedy. And asking for a thorough review as to why nobody has been informed prior to this.

"Public safety will be put at risk. We will not accept that.”

In reponse, Superintendent Mark Stanton said: "Our general enquiry offices are staffed by trained police staff members.

"Our current resource levels mean we are unable to maintain the current opening hours across all 12 stations without taking a police officer from the front line to cover any shortages.

"The numbers of visitors to each station varies and most enquiries do not need a visit to the police station to complete. Newton-le-Willows is one of our lowest demand station across the force.

"We need to make efficient use of all of our resources. We are working hard as a force to balance the needs and expectations of all the communities we serve.   

"Before these measures were brought in an extensive amount of research was carried out to understand how the public uses our enquiry offices.  It revealed:

  • 54% of enquiry office duties were being conducted by an operational police officer taken from front line duties
  • Over 5000 calls in a three month period could be dealt with by police officers on the streets if they are not backfilling enquiry offices.
  • 65% of the demand in an enquiry office does not need a visit to the police station to complete

"The force is recognising and responding to the shift in community expectation and exploring ways to provide the best service possible with the resources and technology available to us.

“We have also introduced more interactive services on the force website which allows the public to report non-emergency crime and traffic collisions online.  

"This is the highest public demand for our enquiry office services.  

"Together with the launch of the social media desk the public can now get timely advice without coming in to the station.

“Newton-le-Willows is a fully operational police station with a sergeant led community team working from there.

"The community team is supported by our emergency patrol and investigation teams operating from St Helens."

Police added that Newton-le-Willows averaged around five people visiting per day over a 10 hour period.

They said nearly 80 people per hour use the force's online service and less than 10 per cent of users of our social media service stated they would have attended a station to report the same issue.