ST HELENS and Newton-le-Willows' police general enquiry offices will remain open following a review by the force of its services.

Following the review’s initial findings, the force implemented interim opening times in February this year while they explored a range of longer-term options.

These saw St Helens GEO on College Street open from Monday to Saturday, 10am to 6pm and Newton-Le-Willows open from Monday to Friday, 10am to 6pm.

READ MORE > Sentenced in October: Criminals who appeared before the courts over the past month

A key part of the review was analysis of demand for the services provided by the General Enquiry Offices across Merseyside.

Analysis showed that in St Helens, the GEOs at St Helens and Newton-Le-Willows were used by the public for approximately 40.5 per cent of their opening hours, with an average daily footfall of 25 at St Helens and 5 at Newton-Le-Willows (between April 1 to August 13, 2019).

The review has now been completed and based upon the findings a new set of proposed opening hours will be implemented by March 2020:

St Helens GEO will be open Monday to Friday, 10am to 8pm and Saturday, 10am to 6pm.

Newton-Le-Willows GEO will be open Tuesday to Friday, 10am to 6pm

Assistant Chief Constable Jon Roy, said: "A great deal of work has since taken place in partnership with the Police and Crime Commissioner, who has been expanding a programme of work to open Community Police Stations in public buildings throughout the county. While these stations are not operational replacements to our General Enquiry Office service, they do offer a regular and convenient place for the public to go and speak directly with their local policing officers about issues and concerns. At present there are 18 Community Police Stations in Merseyside with three more to open in Liverpool shortly."

He added: "Although Newton-le-Willows will now be closed on a Monday, St Helens will be open for two hours longer during the working week to cater for members of the public who work regular daytime hours. In addition, there are six Community Police Stations in St Helens. These are located at Rainford, Thatto Heath, Eccleston, Billinge, Sutton and Moss Bank with surgeries for the public advertised on the Facebook page. I will also continue to work through co-location opportunities with the local authority, or partner agencies, to maximise the joint services we can provide.

"The staff in GEOs have had additional training so that when they are not engaged with enquiries from members of the public they can carry out other functions such as the completion of crime and road traffic collision reports, which in turn increases the efficiency of our overall service.

"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 and operational officers will still be operating out of Kirkby, Huyton, Newton-le-Willows, Admiral Street, Speke, Walton Lane, Marsh Lane and Wallasey."

St Helens Star:

Newton-le-Willows police station

ACC Jon Roy, added: "As part of our commitment to providing a visible and accessible policing service we have decided to give the responsibility of supervision for the GEOs to local policing teams who already have responsibility for the provision of the Community Police Stations. This will ensure that their core functions are aligned closely to the community.

"We have also increased our ability to offer a range of transactional services, including reporting crime, setting local policing priorities, and obtaining advice through the new force website.

"Meanwhile our social media desk continues to grow in popularity and we remain one of the only forces in the country to be taking contact in this way.

"This revised approach reflects the changing consumer habits and preferences of the communities we serve and offers greater choice to the people who need us."

St Helens North MP Conor McGinn welcomed the news that the St Helens and Newton-le-Willows stations will remain in operation.

St Helens Star:

St Helens North MP Conor McGinn

The Labour MP said: “People in Earlestown, Newton, Haydock and surrounding communities in the east of the borough will be relieved to hear that the police station will remain open and accessible to the public.

“I am grateful to the Police Commissioner and the Chief Constable for listening to my strong representations on this issue and responding to the fantastic campaign led by local Labour councillors, community groups and businesses. As always I thank our local police officers for their continued dedication to our safety and security, and I sure they too will welcome this news.”

The review identified that:

• Visitors to GEOs have fallen significantly with an average of only 1.2 visitors an hour.

• Only 17 per cent of all enquiries fielded by GEO staff actually needed the customer to attend in person.

• Our digital contact channels are becoming increasingly popular with 80 people an hour contacting the control room through social media, and fewer than 10% of them saying they would still have gone to a GEO if social media had not been an option.

• Front line officers were frequently having to provide cover at the GEOs, at short notice, to keep them open to the public due to support staff shortages, meaning they were not policing communities