FENLAND: Barclay calls for probe into cells move that he fears could mean 30 police jobs move out
PUBLISHED: 14:49 29 January 2009 | UPDATED: 08:51 02 June 2010
EXCLUSIVE By John Elworthy AN urgent inquiry has been demanded into claims that the closure of cells at Wisbech Police Station could spark a massive downgrading of policing in the Fens with up to 30 officers being transferred to neighbouring Norfolk. Ste
By John Elworthy
AN urgent inquiry has been demanded into claims that the closure of cells at Wisbech Police Station could spark a massive downgrading of policing in the Fens with up to 30 officers being transferred to neighbouring Norfolk.
Stephen Barclay, prospective Parliamentary Conservative candidate for NE Cambs, is taking the claims seriously and believes that the future of Wisbech Police Station- and the magistrates' court- is under threat.
He believes Cambridgeshire Police Authority is studying proposals that could see a new, quasi merged force operating from a new state of the art police station on the outskirts of Kings Lynn.
"Once the new King's Lynn station is built within the next two years, anyone arrested in Chatteris, March, Whittlesey and Wisbech are likely to go to cells there, rather than in Fenland," said Mr Barclay.
"There is a possibility that officers whose primary role is to deal with arrested persons will face being moved gradually from Wisbech and March to King's Lynn. This will impact the police response to emergency calls in Fenland."
Mr Barclay questions whether the intention is to contract out to a civilian company transportation of prisoners from Fenland to Lynn, and is asking why new and temporary cells, shortly to be built in March, could not have been built in Wisbech.
He believes closure of the cells at Wisbech- for health and safety reasons- is "the first step in a series of potentially devastating cuts for Fenland".
Mr Barclay feels the Cambridgeshire Police Authority will find it an attractive proposition to move across the border to Lynn to make use of the new police station which will include 24 hour medical provision and a translator on site.
His comments were dismissed by Keith Walters, chairman of the Cambs Police Authority, as a "wild version of events".
However Mr Walters conceded Cambridgeshire was one of the worst performers in the country for cross border collaboration with neighbouring forces- a proposal much favoured by the Home Office.
Mr Walters said Cambridgeshire planned a service level agreement with Norfolk to run the new cells, but Mr Barclay said it was inevitable that this would mean officers from Fenland moving to Lynn.
"If Mr Walters can tell us that new cells will be built at Wisbech in the future, then his claim that our questions are wide of the mark would carry more weight," said Mr Barclay. "Without it I suspect many people in Wisbech will draw a different conclusion."
Mr Barclay is also fearful that CID teams based in Wisbech will move, since they spend considerable time interviewing prisoners, who will be housed in Lynn.
"The major investigation team based in March Police Station and containing many of the most experienced officers is also under consideration to be centralised at King's Lynn so that it can form one larger team including Norfolk murder squad officers covering both counties," he said.
With no prisoner cells at Wisbech, no prisoner handling teams and no CID at Wisbech, this would present the police authority with the option to sell off a prime town centre site.
"With the magistrates' court no longer next to the prisoner cells, there is a serious risk that the courts will sell the whole site," he said.
Mr Barclay is now asking both the police authority and Chief Constable Julie Spence why temporary cells were not be put next to Wisbech Police Station, and if there are proposals to use a private firm to transport prisoners from Fenland to Kings Lynn.
"How safe will it be for a prisoner, with their hands behind their back in handcuffs, to spend an hour in a police van after arrest travelling from Chatteris, for example, to Kings Lynn," he said. "What happens if they collapse on the way?"
Mr Barclay says he wants assurance on the future of policing in the Fens and confirmation that there will be no reduction in officer numbers locally, once the King's Lynn station opens.
Mr Walters, meanwhile, believes collaboration is what he terms "a moveable feast, and we are moving forward a bit more slowly than might have been expected". He believes Police Federation may be providing Mr Barclay with information on the basis of "let's get our MP to push a few buttons".
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