The local police station is central to the safety of just about any community. The presence of hard working public servants who are dedicated to keeping the peace helps residents to feel secure in the local area.
However, Hitchin's police station is being threatened with closure by - of all people - the Hertfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC).
Conservative PCC David Lloyd has recommended the change in a document released on the 8th June called "The Local Business Case Addendum for Change of Governance of Hertfordshire Fire & Rescue Service to the Police and Crime Commissioner".
In an attempt to take the fire service and place it under the strategic control of the PCC, Lloyd is willing to make a substantial change to policing in the local area.
He recommends that the police station near Bancroft should be shuttered, that the Hitchin police station should be merged with Letchworth's on a single site outside the town and that Hitchin's Safer Neighbourhood Team (SNT) should be relocated into the Hitchin Fire Station site.
The reasoning for this is twofold. First, the PCC is attempting to take control of fire services within the area and believes that the move would allow both services to benefit from "streamlined governance". And second, the decision will reportedly provide net capital receipts of £1.5m.
However, we are concerned by the proposals for a number of reasons:
We believe that Hitchin residents should be concerned by these proposals. With regular reports of crimes such as burglaries and purse snatchings in the area, we believe Hitchin's police force requires more support - not to be shunted into a shared office space with another busy public service.
We also believe that it is important that the MP for the area reconsiders his support for bringing together police and fire services. Bim Afolami has so far supported the PCC's merger proposal, but he has the ability to object to this new proposal that is likely to leave residents feeling uneasy.\
We therefore recommend that people who are concerned about the plans do the following:
- Write to David Lloyd to register your concerns.We particularly recommend highlighting his manifesto commitment not to close any police stations and that his new policy is in breach of that.
- Contact our parliamentary candidate and elected representative for Hitchin Highbury, Councillor Sam Collins. He can be reached via email@example.com and will look into this further.
- Discuss the issue with your friends and family. We believe that very few people know that the station is under threat and we believe it is important to get the word out.
The Liberal Democrats believe that a price can't be put on the cost of keeping Hitchin safe. We therefore oppose the closure of Hitchin police station and hope the PCC reconsiders his manifesto breaking proposal.