FRONT counter opening hours at Ripon police station have been slashed by almost half as the North Yorkshire force battles with a funding shortfall of up to £20m.
The station on North Street will now be closed to the public at weekends, and from Monday to Friday will close three hours earlier, at 5pm instead of 8pm, and open half-an-hour later, at 8.30am instead of 8am.
The changes, which came into effect on Monday, equate to the front counter being open 41.5 fewer hours per week – a reduction of 49.4 per cent.
In Boroughbridge, Easingwold and at Pateley Bridge Community Office, there is no change with those stations still open by appointment only.
Supt Ken McIntosh, Safer Neighbourhood Commander for the Harrogate district, said: “I am confident the review of our front counter services will allow us to focus on improving customer service.
“All stations within the command remain accessible, and there are alternative arrangements for out-of-hours which continues to work well.
“We have ensured that the emphasis remains on both the rural areas and the market towns, and we will continue to work in partnership with other organisations to identify new opportunities for providing front counter services.”
The reduction in hours follows North Yorkshire Police’s announcement in April that it was undertaking a major review of all front counter services to see how the service could be adapted where current arrangements and resources did not match demand.
The review is part of a wider programme of change instigated by Chief Constable Grahame Maxwell in response to Government funding cuts which left North Yorkshire Police facing a potential funding gap of around £20m by 2014-15 from the force’s current budget of £139m.
Supt McIntosh said: “The reorganisation has undoubtedly taken funding and efficiencies into account, but I can give my assurance that there has been an immense amount of work behind the scenes that will result in us being able to provide a first class service to our communities.”
Other stations in the area with reduced front counter hours are Thirsk (down 63.5 per cent), Bedale (down 58.8 per cent) and Northallerton (down 14.3 per cent).
The number of opening hours at Harrogate Police Station remain the same, but opening and closing times have moved an hour later in the day.
But the biggest surprise is in Knaresborough where opening hours have been cut by 49.4 per cent despite North Yorkshire Police announcing three months ago it would extend its opening times.
A red-faced official admitted: “In a communication in April, it was incorrectly stated that front counter services were due to extend at Knaresborough Police Station. North Yorkshire Police sincerely apologises to members of staff at the station and to local residents for any confusion this error caused.”
Despite the reduced hours in operation, there are still a number of ways residents can access police services and contact local officers.
These include telephoning the force control room on 0845 6060247 for non-emergencies or through the North Yorkshire Police website – www.northyorkshire.police.uk – where email addresses for Safer Neighbourhood Teams can be found.
North Yorkshire Police also said it remained committed to operating mobile police stations and running surgeries in community facilities.
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