Review of police estate announced

Force looks at making savings in order to maintain services.

Police administration in the West Midlands is due for a shake-up with the announcement of a review into how the force’s buildings are used. The Police and Crime Commissioner has formally announced the review, which is set to be completed over the next two years, of the West Midlands Police estate, aimed at ensuring the force’s use of buildings is fit for purpose and meets the needs of local communities.

The review will assess all police owned and leased buildings over the next three years, looking at issues such as: how the force uses buildings, the operational ‘fit’, the condition of buildings, the long term cost of maintaining buildings, and opportunities which may exist for sharing facilities with partners.

Taking place over four stages, the first stage of the review is already underway covering previously announced work. Earlier this year the force announced plans to relocate administrative bases in Birmingham, the sale of Steelhouse Lane police station, the building of two new custody blocks in Perry Barr and Sandwell, the sale of Green Lane police station and the co-location of some services into the Civic Centre in Walsall.

Coventry, Dudley and Wolverhampton local policing units will be reviewed in the next phase, due to start this month. The remaining buildings across the Walsall estate will also be included in this review.

The review of the four Birmingham local policing units review will start in the summer of 2015, with Sandwell and Solihull local policing units following in the first quarter of 2016 in the final stage.

As part of the review members of the public and partners will be consulted for their views. The Commissioner, Bob Jones, said: “The force has a legacy estate with over 140 properties which cost around £17.5 million a year to maintain. This estate was developed to cater for a workforce that will have reduced by approximately three thousand between 2010 and 2015.

“We can’t shy away from the fact that we are in position where we need to make substantial savings and have to be innovative and creative in the way we provide our services. With 85 per cent of our costs in police officers and staff, anything that can be saved from the remaining 15 per cent can keep police officers and shift patterns.”

The estates review is headed by Director of Resources David Wilkin, who commented, “We have made significant changes to our policing model as a result of internal organisational change programmes, and now need to alter our estate to reflect the changes to the workforce and the new operating model. We have successfully developed models where money has been saved but members of the public have had improved access.  An example of this is the Bluebell Centre, Solihull, where the police front desk has moved into the council One Stop Shop and feedback has been very positive from our communities.

“We need to engage closely with partners and the community to seek to provide sustainable and flexible modern facilities to our officers and staff, to maintain visibility and access for our community.”