Four in 10 police stations have closed in just four years

The number of police stations open to the public has almost halved in seven years, according to new figures.

Nearly 400 front counters have been shut across England and Wales, a Freedom of Information request by the Mail on Sunday found.

Figures from 31 out of 43 forces showed a fall from 901 open counters in 2010 to 510 as of March this year – a decrease of around 43 per cent. It comes amid political pressure on the Government over the reduction in the number of police officers and the rise in violent crime reported to forces.

A similar request last month found the Metropolitan Police sold off almost £1 billion in London property in the last five years, including 24 police stations.

The Met told the Mail on Sunday the number of London police stations, which it defines as operational buildings with a front counter, had halved from 148 in 2010 to 73 in 2017.

Other major forces cutting public counters include West Midlands Police, which closed 29 over the period, and Greater Manchester Police, which also slashed numbers in half from 22 to 11.

The paper also said Derbyshire Police saw the biggest reduction, with the number of front counters open to the public falling 84 per cent from 25 to four. It also cites Hertfordshire, a county with a population of nearly 1.2 million people, as having three fully operational police stations with front counters, compared with 10 seven years ago.

The force’s website shows there are three stations open to the public daily, two others with a reduced counter service and 15 with no public access. Stations with cells also closed at a rate of 45 per cent since 2010, falling from 282 to 155 across the 31 force areas.

A spokesman for the National Police Chiefs Council said: “Police are now far more accessible to the public online and by phone. “Chief constables and police and crime commissioners will take decisions together about the numbers and location of police stations and front counters to meet their communities’ needs balanced against force budgets and priorities.

“All forces ensure they have custody facilities to meet their levels of demand. In recent years, several forces have replaced and renewed their custody suites.” A Home Office spokeswoman said crime had fallen, according to the latest Crime Survey for England and Wales figures released last month. She added: “The Government has protected overall police spending in real terms since the 2015 Spending Review.

“Decisions on the operational deployment of resources and the size of the police workforce are rightly a matter for chief constables, in association with Police and Crime Commissioners, but police forces continue to have the resources they need to do their important work.”

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said in a statement: “The safety of Londoners is my top priority. Our police officers work incredibly hard often risking their own safety to keep us safe.

“Today’s Mail on Sunday investigation shows the devastating effects of government cuts on our police force. Years of under-investment and real-terms cuts have forced the closure of around four in ten police stations open to the public in the England and Wales at a time when reports of violent crime are on the rise.

“Since 2010, huge government cuts to the Metropolitan Police Service has meant drastic action being taken to protect frontline police officers in the capital.

“The Met has already had to find £600m of savings since 2010. That is why the number of police station front counters in London has already gone from 149 to 73 and thousands of police staff have been cut.‎ “In the coming years, due to further Government cuts we will have to find another £400m of savings plus up to £700m more if the police funding formula changes. That is why we are now having to consult on closing up to half of London’s remaining police station front counters.

“Despite this drastic action, Government cuts are so severe that we may also be left with no alternative but to look at reducing frontline officers if ministers go ahead as planned.”