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Wick police station is facing cuts to opening hours

By Will Clark

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PUBLIC opening hours at Wick Police Station could be reduced as part of proposals by Police Scotland to cut costs.

But Thurso’s station could see its opening hours increased by two hours a day if the changes come into force.

The future of the operation of public counter services is part of a nationwide consultation, as the force looks at ways to save money and standardise services.

If proposals are given the green light, Wick would reduce its opening times from 12 hours a day to 10, still opening at 8am, but closing at 6pm. However, Thurso Police Station would see its opening hours increase from eight to 10, opening an hour earlier at 8am and closing at 6pm.

Wick councillor Neil MacDonald was sympathetic to the proposals and emphasised that, despite front desks being closed, officers would still operate around the clock.

"A reduction in hours is always a concern," he said.

"Police Scotland has a stringent budget to adhere to as it has to look at cost-cutting exercises to maintain services.

"Both police stations in Thurso and Wick are not being targeted for closure and it is important to emphasise these stations will always be manned.

"If the public needs to contact the police, there are other ways of contacting these stations."

Six months ago, Wick was downgraded from being open 24 hours a day, reducing its front desk opening hours to 12 hours from 8am to 8pm. Thurso also saw its opening hours reduced in April, from 12 to eight.

On average, Police Scotland said Wick receives 180 visits a week

from the public but Mr MacDonald said more information was needed about the nature of the visits to determine if reduced front counter services would have a negative effect.

"It is fine to say the police station is visited 180 times in a week but of those 180 times, how many of those is to report a serious crime?" he said.

"We would need to know the seriousness of these visits before we can truly understand if reduced hours of the front desk will have a big impact in Wick."

Caithness and Sutherland area committee chairwoman Deirdre Mackay encouraged people to get involved with the consultation process to ensure they have their say on any change to police services.

"We need to understand how any changes will impact the area and, equally, we need to understand how any alternative measures will meet the diverse needs of communities," she said.

"People must get involved to ensure local provision is not diminished. This is an opportunity for the community and public services to work closely together to ensure we have sustainable, effective and customer responsive service."

Assistant chief constable Wayne Mawson, who has led the review, stated the number of people calling at public counters across Scotland has dropped in recent years.

He said changes have been proposed at stations which will have minimal impact on the services provided within those areas.

"Our review will reduce opening hours at some public counters across Scotland," he said.

"But this is where analysis of demand has provided evidence which has allowed us to take these steps without significantly impacting on the level of service enjoyed by communities.

"The review found that public attendance at front counters has reduced significantly – as other ways of engaging with police services have developed.

"This has provided Police Scotland with an opportunity to consider how public counter services – which were provided in different ways across the previous eight police forces – could be more effectively managed and delivered.

As part of the proposals, three police stations in the Highlands have been earmarked for permanent front counter closures, including Dornoch.

Police Scotland has also proposed to remove traffic warden services which remain in parts of the country.

The consultation will take place over the next four weeks.

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