THE front counters at all the market town police stations in Herefordshire are

to close next month, including in Ledbury Station, off the Worcester Road.

West Mercia Police has confirmed the desks at Bromyard, Kington, Ledbury, Leominster and Ross on-Wye will be removed from the beginning of September and replaced with an intercom system, connecting the public to a "call-taker"

For Ledbury Town Councillor and trader, Annette Crowe, who has been instrumental in re-establishing regular PACT meetings in Ledbury, the decision sends out "the wrong signal".

She said: "It is extremely disappointing. Elderly people, for instance, are not happy talking to an intercom and if something has happened to upset them, they need the personal contact."

Ledbury Town Councillor Martin Eager believes the changes will not matter, because the existing service is so "diabolical".

He said: "This won't make any difference. I've been up there several times, when my car has been vandalised, or because of an accident, and it hasn't been open.

"You ring the bell and sometimes someone will see you; but there is no proper counter service. The service we are about to get will be no better or worse than the one we've had for several years, - diabolical."

The force says the move is part of a “more modern and effective way” of operating

its services.

“I was involved in keeping

these stations open,” said

Bernard Hunt, a town councillor

in Bromyard.

“It is a sad reflection

of how these cost-cutting

measures have been

brought in.

“I think it proves theorth of the outgoing police

authority and shows

the next to useless role of

the police commissioner.”

Bill Longmore, the police

and crime commissioner

for West Mercia, said he

was keen to keep police officers

accessible to people.

“We are currently exploring

opportunities to share

resources such as front

counters with partners

wherever possible,” he

added. “Strengthening the

police’s relationships with

people is important and I

hope that these changes

will give people a wider opportunity

to connect with

them should they need to.”

Police bosses say they

have seen the number of

people using front desks

drop recently.

“Our review will close

some public counters

across West Mercia but our

analysis of demand has

provided evidence which

has allowed us to take these

steps without impacting

the level of service,” added

chief superintendent

Amanda Blakeman, who

led a review into “public

contact and front counter

provision” which prompted

the decision.

“There are a range of

methods for public contact

and service including calling

101, the introduction of

24/7 contact points at stations

to connect callers to

the police, 115 Safer Neighbourhood

Teams, monthly

community meetings and

drop-in surgeries.”

The police say areas where

front counters close will

see Safer Neighbourhood

Teams step up patrols as

well as increasing community

meetings and forums.

Hereford’s front desk at

the station on Bath Street

will remain open from 8am-

8pm six days a week and

10am-4pm on Sunday and

bank holidays.