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The possibilities with co-location are “endless”, says West Mercia PCC

As PCCs nationwide are looking to re-open police stations and front counters, PCC John Campion is opting for an alternative approach.

Under West Mercia’s SMART collaboration programme, officers are increasingly sharing premises with other Blue Light services and public sector partners, including Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service and West Midlands Ambulance Service. 

The programme is enabling the force to both share overhead costs and strengthen partnerships with other services. 

“The possibilities are endless,” PCC John Campion told Police Oracle. 

“There’s very little that we do in policing that requires solely us to be the occupant. Obviously for things like the firearms range or any covert activity, you wouldn’t want to be with someone else. But any opportunity to generally share the overhead of a building but also that opportunity to work more closely together is an exciting one.” 

He also said that it can mean remaining in a community where they might not have otherwise been able to afford a standalone building. 

To date, the force has 15 co-locations. This has included the sale of Tenbury police stations to co-locate in Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service premises and the sale of Whitchurch police station to co-locate with Whitchurch hospital. 

Meanwhile, future projects being considered are a co-location with Newport Town Council in their planned community hub as well as an optimisation of Malvern, Evesham & Wellington police stations to provide a new modern policing facility - and then generating a capital receipt from surplus land. Timeframes for these projects are still to be discussed. 

When Police Oracle asked PCC Campion about other PCCs moving towards opening more counters, not closing them, he said: “My commitment in my Safer West Mercia plan is that police officers will be visible and accessible in the heart of the communities they serve. 

“I think that comes to life in many ways, but we can’t get away from the fact that even in 2022, physical presence is an important part. 

“My approach is, if we’re going to do that wherever possible, then let’s maximise the efficiency of doing it.” 

It is predominantly the Safer Neighbourhood Teams who are co-locating.

PCC Campion further explained: “We don’t all [look after] separate communities; whether it be fire, ambulance, community groups, town councils - it’s all the same community. 

“Those PEELIAN principles of being part of the public, being the public, I think are even greater amplified when we start to share some of the challenges in society. I doubt there’s virtually any problem in society that sits with one agency.

“The nature of policing being that safety net, means they have no other choice but to intervene when others haven’t or won’t. Therefore, the ability to build the coalition to solve the problem rather than having to intervene I think is a really powerful one as well.” 

He told Police Oracle that it wasn’t always smooth sailing, particularly given the fact that different organisations have different priorities. They have had a situation where one partner told them they would no longer be able to be accommodated, but that same partner has now taken steps to reverse that. 

“We are a person-led organisation,” he said.

“It’s not buildings that do policing, it’s a human thing. Being as efficient as possible with the police estate is absolutely key to ensuring we’re spending our money on keeping our community safe.” 

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