Fears for Bo’ness cop shop

BO’NESS police station won’t be closed as a direct result of budget funding cuts for the year ahead, after the actual decrease proved less severe than first feared.

But in future community policing could be based at major supermarket chains, as Central Scotland Police (CSP) continues looking at property-sharing savings options in several locations, including Bo’ness.

As well as exploring private sector options, it’s been in talks with public sector partners like councils, the NHS, Central Scotland Fire and Rescue and Visit Scotland.

The Commissioner Street office was among 11 identified by Central Scotland Police last August as where potential property savings - £35,000 in Bo’ness’ case - could be made in the 2011/12 budget.

But CSP’s government grant reduction came in at six per cent in real terms, rather than a projected nine per cent, including a condition of maintaining agreed police officer numbers.

Chief Constable Kevin Smith told last Friday’s joint police board in Falkirk: “The threat of station closures that was coming from the nine per cent cut is now gone.”

The board approved the 2011/12 budget, including a £13.1m Falkirk Council nput, that will see at least £1m of savings to be made in civilian posts (one in ten) and £700,000 in non-staff costs.

Mr Smith assured the board he remained committed to community policing.

The aim of CSP’s current research into property sharing is to find potentially better accommodation options, while ensuring there’s still value for money, operational effectiveness and delivery of high quality community policing.

At a report to the police board physical resources committee today (Friday), CSP finance and resources director Roddy Shearer asks for approval to continue these talks with a more detailed progress update to follow at the next meeting.

That date has yet to be confirmed but is unlikely to be before June.

Mr Shearer reports: “Our priority continues to be maximising the physical assets’ contribution to effective operational performance. Some existing offices and houses have been identified which are less suitable for this purpose.”

These premises could be of interest to a Forth Valley partner agency, he added.

Bo’ness response and ommunity officers start and finish shifts in Grangemouth for briefing purposes, but still use the town’s station throughout their shifts.

The public can use the 24/7 call point linked to Stirling HQ’s control room if they find the front reception closed.

Councillor John Constable welcomed the maintaining of the police station and officer levels.

Of potentially sharing venues, he said while understandable economies would be sought, that shouldn’t be an excuse for having a less than adequate police service in Bo’ness.

Fellow councillor Adrian Mahoney said it was a matter for the police board and the police budget for coming years was unknown.

He said people wanted to see a responsive police service and they were already doing a lot of good work to embed themselves in communities.

nCentral Scotland Fire and Rescue (CSFR) joint board also approved their 2011/12 budget last Friday, including £7.8 million from Falkirk Council.

The budget is down 11.3 per cent from last year, but £1.4 million in 2010/11 hadbeen a one-off sum for deferred retirements and possible accounting costs linked to new pension arrangements. These accounting fees weren’t actually incurred, and Falkirk will now get a £753,000 reimbursement.

Potentially eight firefighter posts could be shed via managed vacancies, but CSFR proposes a managerial restructuring review to reinvest in frontline posts.