MERSEYSIDE Police has backtracked on cuts to the opening hours of Newton-le-Willows police station's front desk - making it available for an extra one day a week.

The Star reported after an outcry over a reduction of the station's general enquiry desk's hours to one day a week.

Political leaders hit out at the decision, which they said left the station on Market Street, Earlestown effectively "closed".

Merseyside Police Superintendent Mark Stanton explained the cuts, stating "Newton-le-Willows is one of our lowest demand stations across the force".

The force said that Newton-le-Willows station averages around five people visiting, per day, in a ten hour period, and an extensive review of the general enquiries office service found the number of people visiting had drastically reduced.

Their review of front desks also found that because of staff shortages, frontline officers often had to provide cover at the counters, preventing them from responding to emergency incidents.

However, Merseyside Police has said after listening to feedback about the cuts to Newton it has agreed to change the arrangements which were put in place in January, "whilst we further review our contact offer to communities".

The force is currently looking to employ additional temporary staff to change the general enquiry office opening hours, but in the meantime it has been agreed that:

  • Newton-le-Willows general enquiry office will now be open between 8am and 4pm on Mondays as well as 9am and 4pm on Fridays, the force has said.
  • Meanwhile, St Helens general enquiry office on College Street will remain open for 93 hours a week, available between 8am and 10pm from Mondays to Saturdays and 8am to 5pm on Sunday.

The force says it will communicate other updated hours when additional staff have been recruited.

Deputy Chief Constable Serena Kennedy, said: “I completely understand the concerns.

"It’s really important to us to get the right offer for our communities and that needs to balance their needs with the demand we see for services, so we can put our resources in the right places.

"Year on year we have seen attendance at our general enquiry offices falling and often, because of staff shortages, frontline officers have had to provide cover at the enquiry offices, when they should have been out on the streets.

“Quite often there is a misconception when a general enquiry office is closed and people think the station is no longer operational. This is not the case.

“In the last decade there have been many changes in technology resulting in significant changes to the way people are contacting the police.

“Now with the advent of social media, and the internet, more and more people are using social media as a contact mechanism. At the beginning of 2018 we introduced a dedicated social media desk, allowing the public the ability to contact us online 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to report non-emergency incidents online, or to ask for advice. In the last 14 months the desk has dealt with an average of 2500 contacts per month and demand has increased by 170 per cent."

She added: “We do appreciate though that not everyone will want to talk to us on social media, so we are looking at the different ways that our communities contact us in their totality to ensure that we come up with a sustainable solution to enable the public to contact us when they need us.

"We will listen to feedback from our communities before we make future decisions.

“Any decisions we make will not be made lightly, but it must be remembered that since 2010 the force has lost £103m and more than 1,100 officers due to funding cuts.

"We have already made a lot of hard decisions, but the impact of these cuts is continuing and the decisions we are having to make are getting harder.

"But I can assure the public of St Helens and Merseyside that our duty to protect the public remains our primary aim and we will continue to deliver the best possible service we physically can with the budget and the resources we have.”