HAMPSHIRE’S Police and Crime Commissioner has defended his decision to close and reduce the opening hours of a number of police front desks in the county.

Simon Hayes said the decision to close both Totton and the Isle of Wight’s Ryde offices to the public was made on the back of “significant cuts” to policing budgets and in the interests of continuing to deliver an efficient service to the public.

As previously reported by the Daily Echo, a force-wide estate review was commissioned in light of budget cuts to the service. Mr Hayes said it was in light of those findings that decisions had to be taken to continue staffing front offices that were used most regularly by the public and at the times of greatest need.

He said: “The review of the police estate followed significant cuts to policing budgets and, alongside the Police and Crime Plan and the Constabulary’s Operational Change Programme (OCP), is aimed at positioning Hampshire Constabulary to deliver a quality service at an affordable cost that is available when needed.

“Front office usage was reviewed as part of the estate strategy to ensure we continue to offer the best locations, opening hours and service to the public, while offering more resilience with staff cover and improving effectiveness and efficiency.

"The in-depth review included examining the numbers of people visiting each front office, as well as the demand for services.

"How we are changing was shaped by the results of the review and reflects the needs of the public.”

Mr Hayes added that the stations themselves remained operational and that the Safer Neighbourhood teams would continue to be based there.

Hampshire police added that information gathered from the review showed that more people living in the Totton area visited the front office at Southampton Central than the local office.

A spokesman said that the usage of Totton was about 11 per cent of the usage of Southampton Central and equated to fewer than ten people visiting a day.

The decision to close Totton’s police front office was labelled “a joke” by a councillor, while criticism was levelled at Mr Hayes for not consulting on the decision before it was taken with elected members.

Mr Hayes said that he was in regular contact with New Forest District Council.