THE future of a busy town centre police station today hangs in the balance.
Eastleigh’s police station has been put under threat after Hampshire Constabulary revealed it was once again reviewing the number of buildings it owns as part of an ongoing bid to shave millions of pounds from its budget.
The news comes just a week after a man was killed, sparking a murder inquiry that rocked the local community.
The Daily Echo can reveal negotiations have been under way behind the scenes with Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service and Eastleigh Borough Council over a “space sharing” initiative.
But police chiefs maintain “no firm decisions have been made”.
This weekend saw around a dozen campaigners demonstrating outside the police station in Leigh Road, protesting against the cuts.
John Edwards, 58, from Romsey, but who lived in Eastleigh for 22 years, said: “It’s a retrograde idea. It’s going to affect confidence for the public. These cuts affect everyone.”
The proposal comes just weeks after the force announced sweeping £25million cuts including job losses and station closures.
News of the uncertainty surrounding the Leigh Road headquarters has been greeted with outrage by one local councillor, who described the facility as a “safe haven” for people in the town.
Andy Moore, who represents Eastleigh East on Hampshire County Council, said: “It is absolutely terrible news.
“Our politicians are telling us that crime is down in the town – but there are not enough police to make the reports. I am appalled.”
He added: “Being able to go to a police station is a form of reassurance for victims of crime. Eastleigh is a central point in the area – we do not want to be shutting police stations, we need to reinvest.”
UKIP supporters organised the demonstration outside the headquarters on Saturday, with some drivers beeping their horns in support.
Cllr Keith House, leader of Eastleigh Borough Council, said savings need to be made to ensure frontline policing remains in the town.
He said: “The police have been working through the estate strategy for a number of years and have to make sure they save money for front line policing – that is what matters most.”
“The key is a police presence in the centre. It’s not about buildings, it’s about safety.
“UKIP are being deeply irresponsible if they are trying to suggest policing in the town is at threat.”
As part of the cost-cutting measures revealed earlier this year, Hampshire Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Simon Hayes confirmed that further underused and expensive police stations will be closed to make savings from the force’s estates budget.
At the time, it was not known which police stations were at risk but Mr Hayes said that the introduction of cheaper beat stations, such as the ones opened in the Northam and Redbridge areas of Southampton, had been a success within the communities.
A PCC spokesman said nothing had been decided and that a further report would be released later this month.
He added that the PCC was “currently evaluating the estate strategy and how that can support the operational change programme which includes speaking with our partners.”
These included Hampshire Fire and Rescue, Eastleigh Borough Council and other bodies with regards to possible space sharing, the spokesman said.
- The news comes as two brothers were remanded in custody charged with the murder of newsagent Choudhry Zishan outside his Eastleigh town centre home. Jonathan and Samuel McKinley appeared at Winchester Crown Court accused of murdering Mr Zishan, 35, in High Street. The case was adjourned until May 30.