PEOPLE concerned over planned reductions in police station opening hours are to be given a chance to put their views to senior police figures.

The meeting is being held by Teesdale District Council's overview and scrutiny committee because of public concern over plans to shut Barnard Castle police station's front counter at weekends and in the evenings.

This will be the first time the public will be able to speak to police about their concerns.

People have been invited to the meeting and officers will answer questions on the reduced opening times, the proposed savings and the reasoning behind the proposals.

As well as senior police authority figures, people attending will include representatives from the union Unison, which represents police station counter clerks, Peter Stubbs, from rural crime prevention scheme Farmwatch and local resident George Crystal.

Councillor Newton Wood, the chairman of the overview and scrutiny committee, said: "We would be hoping they would consult with the local population. They didn't consult with organisations like Farmwatch.

"We want to make a stand, saying you can't do these things without consultation."

Mr Stubbs said: "The worrying part of it is they are doing away with a system that has worked well."

Under the new proposals, Barnard Castle police station would only be open to the public between 8am and 6pm on weekdays and closed at weekends. It is one of six stations across south Durham having its front-counter opening hours reduced.

The police authority has said no police stations are closing and it would only be the front-counter services which would be affected.

The closing times would be when there were the least calls to the stations and would free up more police officers to work on the street.

The authority has said the proposals will save up to £100,000 a year, which is the equivalent of five extra police officers.

The meeting will take place in the council chamber at Teesdale House, Galgate, Barnard Castle, on Tuesday, October 4, at 6pm.

* What are you views? Log on to http://forums.thisisthe to discuss this story and others.