When was the last time you slipped into a local branch of your bank? Like the one in the Cattle Market in Gloucester where you could drop by to pay-in your cheques – remember them?
Or the post office in Montpellier in Cheltenham where it was easier to park?
Not recently, obviously, because along with others of their ilk, both are now closed and have been for several years. And if you are below a certain age, you would probably have to ask where or what was ‘the Gloucester Cattle Market’ anyway.
Local banks and post offices have become as rare as hens’ teeth. And to them you can add independent public houses, village schools and yes, police stations. Social commentators would enjoy debating why we have let this happen, but we have and there’s no turning back the pages of history. But it is the closure of police stations which still raise eyebrows the most.
Recently, Gloucestershire’s so-called vanishing police stations have been presented as front page news, even though there have been no closures on my watch which began six years ago. At least two national newspapers reported that 21 out 28 have been lost in our county, which by even the most cursory calculation suggests only seven remain open.
There is little point in re-opening the debate about police station closures, though it is a matter of record that when I was elected in 2012 I kept my promise to save those that were next on the closure list in Cheltenham, Coleford and Barton Street in Gloucester. Through careful management of police finances, we have also managed to redevelop and open other police buildings in Cheltenham, Gloucester and the Forest of Dean with long term plans to redevelop police stations in Stroud and Cirencester.
Not all of our buildings have public receptions, and maybe they have to for the public to regard them as police ‘stations’. But many do and certainly there is at least one in each of our districts.
I never dispute the media’s right to report the facts though I do retain my right to correct any inaccuracies or add context, especially when public confidence might be jeopardised.