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Cicely Maunder writer of the strong letter to the Oxford Mail.


The Police invited a group of town representatives to come and discuss changes in opening hours at the Police Station last Thursday.  Those attending were: The Mayor. District Councillors Mike Howes and Eve Coles. Town Councillors John Grantham and Gerry Alcock.  Cicely Maunder stood in for District Councillor John Hannis. County Councillor Hilary Biles was in hospital. County Councillor Ian Hudspeth
WODC Cabinet Member for Community Safety and Police Liaison took the chair  This is one persons impression of the meeting.

If you ask me the Police haven�t quite got the hang of this new  consultation era.  You can�t set up Forums, neighbourhood action groups, safety partnerships, carry out consumer research on what people want only when it suits you � and then turn round and say. �By the way we have now decided to change the opening hours at the Police Station and you don�t get to have a say!� And if you have made a unilateral decision about an apparent service reduction why on earth announce it in the period immediately following a big armed robbery  And having reluctantly invited a few town representatives along for a chat and promised to consider their comments does it make sense to hand out a glossy brochure at the meeting with the new opening hours already printed on it Some of us came away from the meeting on Thursday thinking we had been taken for mugs. Which is a pity because the Police have a very good case to make.  But so do we have a case to make about some key aspects of the proposals and if nobody will listen then we ain�t going to simply roll over and go along with the proposed changes. We were elected to do more than that.

Let me try and summarise the situation as it emerged from the discussion on Thursday:    The Police have been concentrating all their efforts in the last few years on getting more policemen on to the streets. This is what people have said is their priority (and we agree!) West Oxfordshire has six more full-time constables and Chipping Norton District has two more today than a year ago. Chipping Norton District has one officer per 356 people. This compares with 720 people in the rest of the county.  All this is good news.

The public�s interface with the Police is changing dramatically. The Police have made a huge investment in telephone systems and claim that delays are now a thing of the past. The phone is the fastest way of accessing the most appropriate Police resource. It is the means of communication people these days use to get in touch with  the Police � just like  all other consumer services. They also say that its perfectly possible to access Chippy Police Station (and individual officers) via the Thames Valley Call Centre. Try it. Ring 505 505 and ask for Sergeant Clare Mackintosh. You�ll be put through to her phone or her voice mail.   The other major change as neighbourhood policing becomes more understood is that increasingly the public can communicate with local officers by e-mail at   In addition to all this � several part-time voluntary stations like Charlbury have been set up which take some of the pressure from Chipping Norton. Chippy has recently had the Front Desk manned by a team of two - a civilian and a uniformed officer (who has been unable to carry out full time policing duties). The uniformed officer is about to retire. The Chief Inspector says he will be replaced but using a new fully-trained police officer on the Front Desk in an administrative capacity makes no sense when he is capable of working outside on the street. � fighting crime (and we agree!).  So Chief Inspector Evernden wants to take this opportunity to see if resources can be used more efficiently and cost effectively. The Front Desk hours have not been reviewed for 20 years! He proposes opening the Front Desk between 10 am and 6pm on Monday to Friday only.  At other times any member of the public turning up with an urgent problem can use a yellow telephone by the Front Door which provides an instant connection with the Area Operations Room.

Chief Inspector Evernden (left) looks you in the eye with a �cross my heart and hope to die� sort of sincerity and says �Police officer strength in Chipping Norton has been increased over the last few years and I am absolutely not removing any of that resource from the Chipping Norton Policing Team. I am choosing to allocate my resource to the street rather than the Front Desk�. Your intrepid Editor was not going to call this steely police chief a liar!! We have to believe him. And in principle we support what he is doing. But we had some simple points to make at the meeting.  The timing of this proposal is disastrous because of current sensitivities - but also because - whatever the Police may believe - people in the town do not yet perceive any increased presence on the streets. Their main complaint is still about the lack of visibility of the police - particularly in the evening.  So residents will regard the opening hours issue as yet another cut in town services. Chippy is increasingly a �commuter� town. The proposal to open the Police Station on Mondays to Fridays only between 10 am and 6pm risks withdrawing service completely from a large proportion of the population who are away at work.  The Police�s own figures show twice the demand between 8am and 10am compared with the period between 4pm and  6pm � so please can we have the opening hours 8am � 4pm instead of 10am � 6pm. No increase in hours and surely a completely reasonable request. What�s the problem I didn�t understand the answer! And could we also please have two hours every Saturday morning If those Saturday hours are not used then withdraw them � but find out if there is a demand first. If one civilian Desk Officer could not cope with this number of hours then perhaps one of the new Community Support Officers could be seconded to the Saturday slot. Or perhaps that session could be held in the Co-Op Arcade rather than at the Police Station.

The Police Proposals are being discussed by the WODC Cabinet next week. Cabinet Member for Community Safety and Police liaison Ian Hudspeth (right) - who chaired the Thursday meeting � asked the Chief Inspector if he would give serious consideration to the suggestions that had been made and see if any revisions were possible. It was at this point that the glossy printed brochure with revised hours for Police Stations throughout the whole of West Oxfordshire was handed out and not one of us believed that anyone would do anything about what we had suggested. We just hope that at the WODC Cabinet next week our District councillors make their voice heard.


The Town Council, a Stakeholders Group and the District Council have all asked the Police to please think again about their proposal to cut the opening hours of the Front Desk at Chippy Police Station by 20 hours. No response. Now here's the big one. David Cameron himself comes along on a Saturday morning in the Town Hall to plead for more consultation. Over 100 electors are there in support. In attendance - besides a dozen serving officers - is the  Police Communications Manager and several consultants who have apparently done all the work on this scheme. Why has Chippy been treated so disproportionately harshly compared with other Oxfordshire towns No answer that any of us can understand. There is a deeply held view that this is a cost-saving - pure and simple. Everything else is spin. There was a brilliant and forceful presentation from the Superintendent about how well-served Chippy is in terms of coverage by beat officers and how successful the neighbourhood policing scheme is working. (It had me sold anyway) Yes - we all agree that the priority is to get policemen on to the streets. Absolutely no argument. But there is a really strong feeling that  - however good the telephone service may have become - it is essential the Police Station should still be kept open to the public for reasonable periods at times people can get there. For a start - older people want a personal contact. The present proposal - Front Desk open : Monday to Friday 10 am to 6pm - doesn't cut it. A compromise had been suggested that 8am - 4pm would be much better (since it would give people working away from the town a chance of getting to the station first thing) PLUS two hours on a Saturday morning. Apparently the Police will go along with 8-4 but Saturday is a no no - according to the Superintendent. There is no demand they say. But nor is there any evidence that there is no demand. Please try it and if there is really no demand cut the hours in six months time is the public's cry. We'll do it and review it in six months - the police respond. How can you assess the demand for a service that has been withdrawn. By measuring the use of the yellow telephone outside the station which people use when the station is closed. This has all become Alice in Wonderland stuff. The Police chose not to consult on opening hours but to use expensive expert consultants and now they face an angry populace which apparently their expert communications manager doesn't know how to handle. Well the canny Town Sergeant had found a way through the impasse - which the Superintendent only referred to as a possibility in passing. Move the Front Desk on a Saturday morning down to the Co-Op Arcade and establish an accessible Police presence there where anybody could go along and get advice. Perfect. Exactly what people are looking for. Somewhere you can be sure of finding a local Police Officer with the time to talk about problems. That's what people are afraid of losing. If that idea can be formalised there is a deal to be had and the people of this town will revert to being enthusiastic supporters of the police and there will soon be queues to be committee members of NAG, voluntary front desk relief clerks and police specials. If the Police dig their heels in and refuse to meet the community half way they are going to sacrifice all the goodwill that has been built up in the last few years of discussion and consultation which the departing Inspector Nick Deacon has so deftly co-ordinated. Come on you guys. Its a no-brainer.



At today�s Cabinet meeting (8th March) West Oxfordshire District councillors sent out a clear message to Thames Valley Police that they did not agree with their new proposal to reduce the front desk opening hours at Chipping Norton Police Station.  Cllr Ian Hudspeth, Cabinet Member for Community Safety said, �We welcome the proposal that the reduction in front desk staff will mean more visible policing, but are very concerned that this is resulting in such a huge reduction in opening times. We understand that this is not a consultation process and that the police intend to implement the new hours next month. We are formally asking them to put this decision on hold until there is a full review. � - WODC Press Release

Your Editor attended the meeting and reports.......This was one of those occasions when everyone came together around a clear position and a single voice prevailed. Great.  Ian Hudspeth played honest broker having chaired the Chippy meeting last week with the Police. He reported the debate fairly and even-handedly but still strongly urged that the police should put the decision to reduce Chippy opening hours on hold.  Mike Howes  got as close to a rage as I have ever seen him - making it clear that the Police's refusal to hold a Public Meeting on the issue was just not acceptable. Eve Coles reminded the Cabinet that old folk from the villages wanted a face to talk to - not a telephone or an e-mail. They would be badly affected by this change.  But support was solid. Councillors Derek Millard from Stonesfield, Tony Walker from Chadlington, Julian Cooper from Woodstock, Margaret Stevens from Eynsham all offered their support. But star of the afternoon - no contest - was friend of Chipping Norton and member of the Chippy Town Partnership Mary Neale.  Mary is bad news when she is in her cost-cutting mode and attacking your local services. But when she's on your side she is a formidable ally. "We are pleased that the crime rate in West Oxfordshire is so low - but that should not be used as a reason to cut  back on Police services". "The data this decision is based on is hopelessly out of date" "Its obvious that there is more demand in the early morning when people who work out of town may be able to get to the Police Station. The Police should re-consider". "There's no evidence here about Saturdays at all"  "We shouldn't pass this on to the Scrutiny committee. We must react to this proposal strongly now and let the Police know how the Cabinet feels".  Good on you Mary. The unanimous vote was taken.  By the time we were home in Chippy 30 minutes later WODC had issued a Press Release (as above) and Ian Hudspeth was playing a blinder on the Bill Heine Show. Its great to have the feeling that Chippy has some powerful friends in high places - at last!


CONSERVATIVE leader David Cameron has called for the police to "stop and think again" about plans to cut the opening times of Chipping Norton police station. The West Oxfordshire MP blamed the row over the proposals to cut the station opening hours to 10am to 6pm, Monday to Friday, with evening and Saturday opening dropped altogether, on a lack of consultation and understanding by the police. At a public meeting in Chipping Norton Town Hall last Saturday, he said: "There is a failure of understanding on the part of the police, concern about opening times and lack of consultation. People do feel they have paid a lot into the precept for the police." He said: "The police have got to understand that people in Chipping Norton feel we have had a reduction in services, not just with the police but also with the hospital and the ambulance."  Around 100 people who attended the meeting organised by district councillor Mike Howes, (pictured right) heard resident Keith Greenwell say: "The perception of people in Chipping Norton is we don't have a police presence on our streets. This is just a crude cost-cutting exercise. We want policing in Chipping Norton that's real policing."  Chipping Norton Town Council and West Oxfordshire District Council have called for police to abandon the cuts.



Our new Neighbourhood Policing Inspector for West Oxfordshire - Andy Higgs - being welcomed to Chipping Norton by Councillor Michael Howes, along with Community Sergeant Clare Mackintosh.  Inspector Higgs, was previously based in Oxford where he had responsibility for Blackbird Leys. He has had 22 years service as a police officer within Thames Valley and has lived in West Oxfordshire for over 20 years. Inspector Higgs, is very much looking forward to continuing and maintaining the introduction of neighbourhood policing to West Oxfordshire, of  becoming familiar with Chipping Norton and to maximising the effectiveness and presence of the Police Team in our town.

Behind the Inspector's shoulder you can just about see the new yellow telephone outside the Chipping Norton Police Station. Even if the Front Desk is closed this phone provides you with direct and immediate access to all Police services.



Well that's an interesting idea!.......

There was a meeting last Tuesday evening to try and reach some agreement on the question of the opening hours of the front desk at the Police Station.  Chief Supt David McWhirter (Top Police Chief in Oxfordshire) came  with Chief Inspector Dennis Evernden from Witney (our local area commander). Present for the town were Don Davidson, John Grantham, Jo Graves, Gerry Alcock and Cicely Maunder. For the District Council Eve Coles and Ian Hudspeth (Cabinet member at WODC responsible for Police Liaison). There had been a strong feeling at the Public Meeting in town that it would be better to open the Front Desk from 8am-4pm instead of 10am - 6pm. The Police had readily agreed to this which was a good start!   We then discussed ways of providing some cover on Saturdays. The Police made an extremely interesting proposal which was that  a couple of their officers move downtown and set up shop with their computer database and make themselves available for consultation, advice etc. It would be an opportunity for townspeople to report concerns, ask questions, provide information - as well as doing some of the simpler clerical chores - like producing a driving licence! The first suggestion for a venue was the Museum. But most people thought this might be difficult for older folk. The Council Chamber - which is at pavement level - would be much more accessible. The Police would provide the personnel for an experimental period to assess demand for such a service. Clearly it would need some advertising so that members of the community could understand exactly what is being offered. The discussion opened up other really innovative possibilities. One is to  try and persuade the District Council to join in with their Visitor Information Centre (and eventually perhaps the County could be involved as well).  The thing is of course that the District's Visitor Information Centre is not open on Saturdays at the moment. But if the Police are prepared to allocate funds to providing an information service to the public at the weekend its difficult to see how the District could refuse - particularly since the Police say a high percentage of their enquiries are related to tourist issues (Getting directions etc) Ian Hudspeth seemed hopeful and promised to consult his Cabinet colleagues. The future might well see the development of a multi-agency information point where a whole range of Public Bodies (including perhaps PCTs and Schools) offered basic services and information - and a Fast Track to more expert advice. This might well be located in the Guildhall - once refurbishment is complete.  There was a real conviction that this could be the beginning of a quite new way forward and the Group committed itself to making some quick practical progress to get things underway.