COST-cutting plans to close Stourbridge and Kingswinford Police Stations have sparked mixed reactions from the area’s politicians and councillors.

West Midlands Police is proposing to close 28 stations across the region over the next two years in a bid to save £8.5 million.

Stourbridge MP Margot James said she is not going to fight the closure of the town’s police station, but Dudley South MP Mike Wood has promised to join campaigners if they wish to keep the station in his constituency open.

The closures have been earmarked to help the force its bid to reduce its overall budget by £130 million by 2020.

Stourbridge Town Conservative Councillor Nic Barlow was vociferous in his support for Stourbridge Police Station, which first opened in 1911, claiming the proposals are “very short sighted”.

He said: “It is very disappointing. We have a number of officers who can walk out straight out of the station into the town centre.

“If they are moved to Brierley Hill they won’t be able to be at scenes within minutes and they would have to add on the impact of travel time, which would cause more expense.

“They also cannot cram everybody into Brierley Hill Station.”

None of the 28 buildings earmarked for closure are open to the public and are either used as storage facilities or administrative bases by officers. If the closures go ahead, staff will move to other police buildings within the local policing area.

Tom Cuddeford, deputy chairman of West Midlands Police Federation, said: “While these offices may not be open to the public, officers work from them and host meetings there.

“Their closure will take officers further away from the communities they serve and, instead of having a base on their patch, they will have to travel from another base meaning they are available to the public for less time.

“The closures will also have an effect from a public confidence perspective since we know that this always increases when there is a police building nearby.”

Mr Wood, whose father was a police officer in the West Midlands for more than 30 years, said his biggest concern is the effect the closures could have to the public’s confidence in local policing.

He said: “I care passionately about our local police service and while I recognise that police stations by themselves do not catch criminals, closing the stations will undermine the local public in the service being provided for them.

“West Midlands Police are going to have to do an awful lot to reassure people of Dudley South that the police are there for them and that their security is as important as everybody else’s in the West Midlands.”

Ms James claims the changes will not have an impact on Stourbridge, adding: “It is something I will be keeping a close eye on, but I would rather see reductions to the bricks and mortar of the police’s assets rather than to the front-line officers.

“I am not going to fight it as I think it will have a very minimal impact.”

However, Lynda Waltho, Stourbridge’s previous MP, dismissed Ms James’ remarks, saying: “Coming hard on the heels of cuts in police numbers, sadly I think it's inevitable that closing Stourbridge Police Station will increase levels of crime. It's madness to suggest anything else.”

West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson is expected to make a decision on the proposals next month, following a public engagement period led by the force.

He told the News: “There has been much comment in the previous few days about this issue.

“I would like to point out that these proposals have been made following the disproportionate cuts that West Midlands Police has faced and the overriding view that officers, not buildings, keep people safe.”

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