Police grilled over cutbacks

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POLICE chiefs last night reassured residents the closure of a community station will not increase response times or reduce officer visibility.

Dozens of people packed into The Assembly Rooms in Lytham to discuss proposals for the town’s police station.

The front counter may be closed as part of Lancashire Police cost cutting and the building could close completely when its lease ends in 2015.

Fears have been raised over a less visible police presence, difficulty contacting officers and the impact on elderly residents.

Supt Bill McMahon, Blackpool Police’s second in command, attempted to allay concerns during the meeting – part of a 12-week consultation exercise.

He said many people were now choosing to contact police using mobile phones, e-mail or social networking site Facebook and the station was only receiving 1.9 visitors an hour.

He added: “I want to reassure you will still have response officers working in Lytham and Fylde and you will still have a Neighbourhood Policing team working here.”

Supt McMahon also mentioned an automatic location device (ALD), a new technology being brought in next year which would speed up response times and a new mobile CCTV van which would be stationed in Lytham.

But County Coun Mary Wilson questioned the proposal to close a station in a “tourism hotspot” and a town flourishing with events such as the Lytham Proms and the Open golf in 2012. She said: “Lytham is on the up with the success of Lytham Proms, the War Weekend and next year’s golf is guaranteed to bring in thousands.”

Residents echoed Coun Wilson’s comments and expressed concerns over vulnerable neighbours.

Alison Owen, said: “There are a lot of older residents in Lytham who do not have mobile phones or computers.”

Lytham St Annes Lifeboat operations manager Andy Fallow, suggested the front desk be moved into the town’s heritage centre.

He added: “The shared cost could be pretty low.”