Northumberland councillor calls on new police and crime commissioner to reopen rural police stations

Susan Dungworth the new Northumbria PCC
Susan Dungworth the new Northumbria PCC -Credit:Newcastle Chronicle

The new police and crime commissioner for Northumbria is facing calls to reopen rural stations just days into the job.

Labour's Susan Dungworth was elected on May 3 to serve as PCC for the Northumbria force area, succeeding Kim McGuinness after the latter became North East mayor. Now, Conservative councillors are calling on the new commissioner to set out a timescale on the reopening of 14 stations and desks closed in recent years.

Northumbria Police announced plans in 2021 to permanently close 14 of its 23 front offices across the region, claiming the move would make services more cost-effective. However, the scheme proved controversial with local residents, with particular fears over the impact on the elderly.

Coun Gordon Stewart, cabinet member for communities at Tory-led Northumberland County Council, called on Mrs Dungworth to tackle the issue "as a matter of urgency".

The Prudhoe South councillor said: "Congratulations to the Commissioner upon her appointment. I call upon her to reinstate police stations and police desks closed under her predecessor.

Coun Gordon Stewart on Front Street in Prudhoe
Coun Gordon Stewart on Front Street in Prudhoe -Credit:Copyright Unknown

"I was critical at the time about the lack of evidence-based information and the excuse for a consultation which led to the closures across the county including in Prudhoe. I ask that the PCC works with me and council officers to review the options, and get the police presence back in place very quickly, and for her to publish a timetable for the reopenings.

"The rural crime team play a big part in ensuring many communities feel protected. Highly skilled and well equipped officers work alongside a range of custodians of the countryside, such as national park officers.

Stations in Prudhoe, Ashington, Whitley Bay, Cramlington, North Shields, Blyth, Morpeth, Etal Lane, Byker, Whickham, Westgate College, Washington, Houghton, and Farringdon were closed. However, in March the force announced it would trial extended opening hours at three stations in Northumberland - Hexham, Berwick and Alnwick.

Mrs Dungworth said the results of those trials would be used to inform future decisions around reopening stations.

She said: “Northumbria Police is currently trialling extended opening hours at Hexham, Alnwick and Berwick and will do so for the foreseeable future while usage is monitored at different times of the year. This information will then inform any future decisions around the affordability of reopening stations.

"In the meantime, I will be doing everything in my power to support officers and deliver safer streets and stronger communities for the people of Northumberland and throughout the force area.”