Dear Reader: That sinking feeling over police cuts + I rescue a hedgehog

Harrogate police station.
Harrogate police station.

A personal column by the Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers

Even before the first one was appointed I had my doubts about the introduction of police commissioners, doubts I raised at the time in this column.

My concern wasn’t about the sort of person who was going to be elected to the post, on miserably low turnouts, as it turned out, or which political party they represented but with the very role itself.

What was the point of using taxpayers money to give someone with little background in law and order their own budget and office to deal with law and order?

My doubts haven’t been assuaged by a story which appeared on this newspaper’s popular website earlier this week.

Opening hours to the public are being cut for the front counters in three major police stations across our county, including Harrogate’s.

The reason given in North Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner’s statement was a decline in the number of members of the public using the service.

As a matter of sheer logic, it’s had to argue against.

What I found alarming was the degree of satisfaction in the statement that the reduction of opening hours would save £150,000.

It may be that, as a society, we’ve all lost sight of the fact that the point of a public service is to serve the public rather than the accountants?

I don’t remember the captain of the Titanic telling passengers that the “bad news is the boat is sinking but the good news is we’re going to save a hell of a lot of money on fuel.”

It should be said up front I was not ‘three sheets to the wind’ on my way home the other week from introducing a Vinyl Sessions fundraiser for The Friends of Harrogate Hospital charity at Starling bar in the town centre. I’d been too busy talking.

I’d gotten off the bus in a civilised fashion, walked across the road and had just stepped onto the pavement when I saw an indistinct shape hurry out of a hedge on the path in front of me.

At first I thought it was a rat but as I came closer I spotted its little spikes shining in the muted light of the street lamps - a hedgehog – and it was heading straight for the road.

Had I been further away, I might have acted differently.

But, as the hedgehog moved onto the tarmac of the road, I followed it quietly one step at a time, looking left and right, then left again.

What would I do if a car did come zooming down towards us along Knaresborough Road?

“I’ll raise my hand like a lollipop lady,” was as far as my thinking got.

Thankfully, my fuzzy little friend, and myself, made it across the road without incident.

Still, I lingered a little to watch this single member of an endangered species disappear into the safety of another hedge.

Not that I was exactly in the clear, myself.

As I turned to head off home again, I noticed another late night walker who’d been watching the whole episode.

“Hello,” I said to him,”I was just helping a hedgehog cross the road.”

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