Northern Ireland

PSNI: Station ‘front counters’ to close due to ‘unprecedented’ financial pressure

Eleven of 28 enquiry offices to shut, including four in Belfast and one in Derry

A car bomb was left outside a PSNI station in the Waterside area of Derry earlier this month
The enquiry office in Waterside in Derry is one of 11 closing due to financial pressures

Unprecedented financial challenges will lead to the closure of 11 police station enquiry offices across Northern Ireland, the PSNI said on Monday.

The offices, also known as front counters, closing were announced by the force, four in Belfast, one each in Bangor, Banbridge, Magherafelt, Dungannon, Lisnaskea, Waterside in Derry and Newtownabbey.

Chief Constable Jon Boutcher told the Policing Board last month of the plan to close the offices due to the “current financial and resource pressures” facing the service, Assistant Chief Constable Bobby Singleton said, adding the number will be reduced from 28 to 17.

Assistant Chief Constable Bobby Singleton defended the police approach to the dissident parade .
Assistant Chief Constable Bobby Singleton (Liam McBurney/PA)

Enquiry offices are manned by non-PSNI staff employed by a private contractor, with Musgrave Street in Belfast the only one open 24/7. The PSNI predicts significant financial savings following the closures.

“This decision follows an extensive review which included analysis of the volume and type of demand in enquiry offices,” ACC Singleton said.

“This review concluded that against the backdrop of wider resource challenges, the current service is neither sustainable nor effective.”

The senior officer added: “This is not a decision we have taken lightly and we are conscious there may be an actual or perceived loss of accessibility, visibility and ability to respond to the needs of the community.

Jon Boutcher was appearing at the monthly meeting of the NI Policing Board
PSNI Chief Constable Jon Boutcher signalled the plan to close the offices at a meeting of the NI Policing Board last month (Liam McBurney/PA)

“However, the PSNI is facing unprecedented financial pressure and savings are necessary to deliver a sustainable and effective organisation.

“The chief constable has been clear for some time that difficult decisions are going to have to be taken. The police service is shrinking and as a result, the level of service the public can expect to see is going to change.

“It is important to emphasise that these are not station closures. Police officers and staff will continue to serve the community from these locations.”

ACC Singleton said PSNI analysis concluded that “even with the reduced arrangement over 90% of households in Northern Ireland will be within 15 miles of a station enquiry office”.

“The need for clarity and transparency on this issue is paramount. We want to be clear with the public about the challenges we are facing and the type of service they can expect to see in the coming years,” he said.

Detective Chief Superintendent John McVea said they were being questioned in Musgrave Street Serious Crime Suite. Picture by Cliff Donaldson
Musgrave Street is currently the only station with a 24/7 enquiry office

Currently, Musgrave Street in Belfast operates 24/7 with Strand Road in Derry open for 76 hours per week and the remaining 26 sites for 40 hours per week.

In Belfast, Lisburn Road, Strand Town, Tennent Street and Woodbourne will all be closed. It is planned the closures will happen over the next three months.