The dust seems to be settling on this issue, which I feel has been a bit of communications foul-up. I fully appreciate that some matters need to be kept in check until decisions are able to be made in public but once the media got hold of the story, and the announcement that Solihull Police Stations (amongst others) are to be closed it is quite understandable people would be concerned, especially as there was no context to the original announcement in Mid February.
There has now been a period of reflection, albeit with a several petitions organised by MP’s/Cllrs from area where stations are to be closed. The petition, and wealth of complaints, here in Solihull can claim to have had some success and now we have a lot more context to the situation.
Firstly, it has to be pointed out that Solihull Police Station is seriously underused. Perhaps more effort could have been made in recent years to find suitable partners to help share the building – thus pay rent. It is claimed (and I fully accept the figure) that the station has as much as 60 – 70% of empty space. I know the station was designed for late 1960’s/early 1970’s Warwickshire Constabulary Policing, with single men quarters on the top floor, a dancefloor with stage on the ground floor, a large canteen, officers mess, large social club, amongst other usage. Policing changed in the 1980’s/1990’s, even more so recently, therefore rendering asset management to be a serious subject.
My position is quite simple: We need main police station in Solihull. Therefore, it is about what replaces Solihull Police Station that concerns me, and the devil will be in the detail. A suitable base, meeting the needs of police officers and residents is essential.
I recently had the opportunity t address the Police and Crime Commissioners CEO, Jonathan Jardine, at a scrutiny board to repeat my views. We should not just accept that response and neighbourhood officers be scattered around, sharing bases with existing public sector bodies. Further, I mentioned the great work police do, in going to incidents where they put their own safety in danger – putting themselves in harms way – to serve the public. The incident of the poisoning of former Russian subjects in sleepy Salisbury is a case in point. Policing works better when a team of officers have a common purpose and help each other – I know that very well. Cop Culture is sometimes seen as bad thing. It is not, Cop Culture allows officers to attend incidents where they know they may be in harms way; to do the unthinkable and brave actions. Anyway, I go on here … (see featured image – these guys would crawl over broken glass to help each other and serve the public).
I have posted here the recommendations from The Councils Cabinet meeting, held on 8 March (these were endorsed at the following scrutiny committee meeting): Extract from the Cabinet 8 March Re Solihull Police station
I have though copied the recommendations here:
(i) That the commitment of West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner to defer any decision on the closure of Solihull Police Station pending public consultation on relocation to alternative premises be noted and welcomed;
(ii) That an immediate response be sought to a number of questions that the announcement has raised including: clarity on the number of police officers available in Solihull, location of custody suites and the continuation of a customer facing presence in central Solihull;
(iii) That assurance be sought from the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner that Solihull residents would directly benefit from the investment in additional frontline policing;
(iv) That the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner be made aware of the Council’s concern about the degradation in police response and support in Solihull over the last 12 months;
(v) That consideration be given to the options for colocation of police officers within Council buildings on the understanding that there is a financial contribution to the Council and that colocation would have to be of benefit to the residents of Solihull; and
(vi) That the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner be asked to make a commitment to work with the Council regarding the disposal of the building as this is an important location in the town centre Strategy and should be considered as part of the one public estate initiative to support the Council’s strategic objectives.
Finally, I post a letter from the Chief Constable, Dave Thompson. The letter is clear in that efficiency savings are going to happen. It does though reassure me that the people of Solihull will be listened to when more information and detail about what any replacement station is going to look like. As stated before, the devil will be in the detail: West Midlands Police Estates
I would like to know your thoughts. Please do not hesitate to make them on this post or send via email to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Ps. Featured image is Uniform Mike, Operational Support Unit, taken June 1989.