Research into Front Desk Services to Lead to Cost Saving Changes

Research conducted by Cleveland Police has found that some front reception desks are so underused that they average less than one visitor per day.

The results of a three month footfall survey between August and October 2015 have led to recommendations which see both changes to opening hours and the closure of some front desks.

Reception areas at the main police stations, such as Avenue Road Hartlepool, Middlehaven in Middlesbrough, Kirkleatham in Redcar, and Thistle Green in Stockton will remain open between the hours of 8am and 8pm.

The front desks at Saltburn, Loftus, Coulby Newham, Billingham, Thornaby, Guisborough, South Bank, Eston and Redcar Town Office will close. Police officers will continue to patrol from these police stations and appointments at the stations will still be held with members of the public.

Video phones will be placed at the front of each building so that there is a direct link to the police control room for anyone who wishes to visit the station, and officers will continue to look for other venues to hold drop-in sessions. The video phones are already successfully in use in other stations across the area.

Examples from the research show that front counters in Eston, Loftus, South Bank, Guisboroug and Saltburn had less than one visit per day on average for the three month period. Redcar town office had on average 2.7 visits per day and Thornaby had an average of 2.1 visits per day. These figures include receiving deliveries, people handing in lost property and the reception dealing with people arriving for appointments.

The front desk service is provided by Sopra Steria as part of the ten-year outsourcing contract with Cleveland Police. The decision to close the front desks means that around six full time posts will be put at risk.

The closures form part of a wider scale change to deliver and make savings to help the Force move forward. Sopra Steria has agreed to support Cleveland Police to make the necessary changes to the contract, which equate to around £2.9million per year and reduce the workforce by around 73 full time posts, with 20 staff transferring back to Cleveland Police.

Temporary Chief Constable Iain Spittal said: “This change does not mean that we are withdrawing from our communities, it is about a common sense approach to ensure that we provide the best and most cost effective service to local people.

“There has been a shift in favour of telephone contact and other means such as social media to communicate with officers. The public can still meet with officers face-to-face through convenient appointments, and they will continue to be accessible in other public places.

“We are becoming a much more technological society and as the needs of the public changes, we must adapt and use our budgets wisely.”

Police and Crime Commissioner Barry Coppinger said: “The research has been made available to me and I am confident that Cleveland Police can deliver the right service to communities with the alternative arrangements on offer.

“I do not underestimate the strength of feeling around topics such as front counters, but it’s so important that we look after the public purse and have honest conversations about services that are being funded but that are underused. “