Police station volunteer plans hit problems, community told

Attempts to re-open the public counter of a rural town’s police station with volunteers have finally been abandoned, though senior officers are planning ‘pop-up’ events to take officers into remote villages where residents rarely have contact with the force.

Friday, 8th February 2019, 13:14 pm
Updated Friday, 8th February 2019, 13:17 pm
Dr Alan Billings

South Yorkshire Police closed Penistone police station as a cost saving measure when austerity cuts began to take hold, with officers and then PCSOs moved out to centralised units closer to the centre of Barnsley.

Since then, police staff have again begun to use the building as a base, but it has remained closed to the public.

It had been suggested to Chief Constable Stephen Watson that volunteers could be used to provide public access for at least part of the week and that idea had remained under investigation for some time.

However, it has now been confirmed that insurance and other complications mean it is not viable to put public volunteers to work at that venue.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Coun Dave Griffin had been among those pursuing the idea and he said it may still be possible to create a similar arrangement, using an alternative public building in the town.

But while those plans remain under discussion, residents have been told of plans for police to get out into the villages which surround Penistone with ‘pop up’ stations, to make police available to those who would otherwise be unlikely to have direct contact.

The idea has drawn criticism, however, after being announced at a public community safety meeting.

Some of those attending questioned the sense of operating the Penistone station, which costs £14,000 a year to maintain, while sending officers out to fulfil a similar function in surrounding villages.

Neighbourhoods police Insp Andrew Norton responded to that, saying: “I think pop up police stations, going out into the community, are a good idea.

“To be blunt, there are certain sections which will criticise whatever we do.

“I think there has to be a move away from continual criticism of police. We want to move forwards. We are asking where you want us and when you want us. Cops want to work with you.

“There are no plans to re-open the police station as a response base or inquiry desk.

“What we are doing is pushing out into the community. If there is cynicism out there, that is for us to address.”

The public meeting was attended by South Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Dr Alan Billings, who confirmed it was “very unlikely” that Penistone police station would re-open to the public.

“When I came in as Police and Crime Commissioner, they had a list of stations they were probably going to close,” he said, “Penistone was one of them.”

“I remember going to a meeting where people were saying very strongly they recognised the force was stretched and keeping the police station open cost a lot of money, but could we at least keep the building and have officers coming and going.

“That is what happened. I think that is the right thing to do.

“We had a look last year at whether we could use volunteers. It hit all sorts of problems. We are looking at an alternative. Coun Griffin has suggested it, maybe other places where police officers and volunteers can be present. We will have to look at that.

“To use volunteers in that way would be really good,” he said.