Candidates clash over police station relocation in Dales town
Rival candidates in the forthcoming North Yorkshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner (PFCC) elections have given their comments on a decision to move the police station in Pateley Bridge.
The candidates' divergent comments follow news that police officers in Pateley Bridge are set to move from their current station on King Street to the Harrogate Borough Council office across the road.
North Yorkshire Police says it will provide a modern base for the local policing team and save money which can be reinvested in keeping the community safe.
Conservative candidate Philip Allott said it was vital in this day and age to maximise efficiencies and invest in frontline officers.
Mr Allott said: "One of the most important things a Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner who understands the role is to ensure that the public get value for money from policing.
"Money should not be wasted on maintaining old dilapidated police buildings, which whilst they may have nostalgia value, contribute little in terms of modern policing or to the welfare of the police officers, who are obliged to work from them.
"It should also be noted that the footfall of people visiting police stations has significantly fallen due to a digital policing era allowing online applications, email contact, mobile phones and the use of things like WhatsApp for rural watch groups.
"By rationalising the police estate it allows the savings to be reinvested into frontline services such as recruiting even more police officers to bolster the 80 plus extra officers already recruited and the further 100 new police officers planned for the next 12 months.
"The relocation of the Pateley Bridge Police Station across the road reflects a more collaborative policing approach in conjunction with Harrogate Borough Council.
"Indeed, as Inspector Langley has stated, the new facilities will ensure an effective, efficient and sustainable neighbourhood policing service for the people of Pateley Bridge for years to come."
Labour candidate Alison Hume criticised the relocation of the police station in Pateley Bridge as just another "cost-cutting exercise" caused by national under-funding of the police force.
She said: "The closure of yet another dedicated police station is the latest in a long line of police estate sales needed to plug the huge gap in funding for our police service here in North Yorkshire.
"Shoving police officers in with council staff may save a few thousand pounds but it’s a drop in the bucket.
"In real terms North Yorkshire Police are now £18 million a year worse off than they were in 2010. In the last two years alone they’ve been under pressure to slash £10m from their budget and make staff redundant.
"Until the Government properly funds the police and stop relying so heavily on the tax payer any remaining police stations in prime locations are in danger of being added to the Commissioner’s “For Sale” list.
"These cost[cutting moves are unpopular with the rank and file who are clearly not office workers and are also unloved by the public who mourn the loss of reassurance and accessibility that dedicated police stations bring to rural communities."
Independent candidate Keith Tordoff MBE, a former experienced police officer and ex-chairman of Nidderdale Chamber of Trade in Pateley Bridge, said the move was expected but asked the question when the town would get a police station which was actually open to the public.
Mr Tordoff said: "The announcement that Pateley Bridge Police Station is moving is not unexpected as the present one has not been open to the public in recent years.
"The Police House attached to the current Police Station has remained unoccupied for in excess of five years.
"Questions should be asked why this valuable asset, a magnificent stone building centrally based in Pateley Bridge has not been sold some time ago.
"The Police House was in good condition when the last tenant left so I am surprised that it has not been providing accommodation for a family, also bringing in some revenue.
"I do know local residents in recent years have questioned with the Police Fire and Crime Commissioners office why the Police house has not been rented out.
"The Police are moving across the road to what is known locally as Pateley Bridge Town Council Offices where the local council hold meetings and the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) are based.
"The existing Police station and Pateley Bridge Council Offices were built around the same time, in the Edwardian or Victorian era.
"Knowing both the existing Police station and the Pateley Bridge Council Offices very well, the press release by the office of the PFCC saying it is "providing a modern base " is I would suggest rather gilding the lily.
"The office of the PFCC would no doubt argue a more modern office inside another old and not particularly well maintained council office fits the 'bill' for the local police team.
"Like the present Police Station the move is to the new ' modern base ' which still will not be open to the public.
"If elected Police Fire and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire, a role which should be independent, I pledge to having local police stations or offices where the public can go and speak with police personnel. "
North Yorkshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner elections in North Yorkshire, May 6, 2021
Conservative: Philip Allott
Labour: Alison Hume
Independent: Keith Tordoff MBE.
Lib Dem: The party told the Harrogate Advertiser the process is underway to find a replacement for the Lib Dem PFCC candidate for North Yorkshire after the original candidate chosen Mark Christie moved on to be the Lib Dem PFCC candidate for Cumbria.
Factfile: North Yorkshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner
The North Yorkshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner (PFCC) elections will take place on Thursday, May 6; the same day as the North Yorkshire County Council Elections.
PFCCs are elected every four years and are elected representatives who oversee a police force and fire service area.
There will be one PFCC elected for all of North Yorkshire.
The winner will replace the current commissioner Julia Mulligan, who has come to the end of her term.
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