THE CLOSURE of two Wiltshire police stations this week could hit the force’s ability to respond in the county’s most isolated communities, a union has warned.
Wiltshire Police Federation chairman Insp Mark Andrews hit out at the decision to close the stations in Pewsey and Calne this week.
Officers will work out of nearby leisure centres.
Mr Andrews, who leads the organisation representing rank-and-file officers, said: “We have recently changed our policing model as it was recognised we were not serving our neighbourhoods as well as we could do.
“The closure of our smaller police stations, such as Pewsey and Calne, effects our ability to operate effectively in our more remote areas.
“I recognise there are other ways of working and we have invested heavily in equipment to allow officers to work from anywhere. But we have to recognise how these decisions have a negative impact on our communities and officers, especially as we seem to continually ask them to contribute more locally to the cost of their police service.”
The decision to close the Calne and Pewsey police stations has not been without criticism.
Coun Glenis Ansell, chairman of the Calne Community Safety Forum, said it was the wrong time to close the station: “Calne is growing at a rapid rate and although the police no longer supply crime figures; from the information available, crime appears to be rising.”
Ms Ansell added: “The announcement came as a shock to the meeting and to local police officers. The changes mean our officers will have no base from which to operate.
“They will continue to muster at Chippenham, increasing the number of unnecessary car journeys and the inherent travelling costs and more importantly, reducing their availability for deployment in Calne.
“Residents of Calne have campaigned long and hard to keep their police station open by means of a public meeting, letters of protest and a petition.
Police and crime commissioner Angus Macpherson said: “I have limited money and I want to spend as much as possible on frontline services. One way I get the best use of this money is co-location estate with partners, which we already do successfully across the county.
"The chief constable has advised me what estate he needs and where to police Wiltshire. I am investing to update our buildings and technology for the 21st century. I want officers to be visible to communities not hidden away in offices.”
In the same week as the two police stations closed Police and Crime Commissioner Angus Macpherson launched a consultation on whether to increase the police council tax precept by £1. It would see Band D properties paying £218 a year towards funding the police.