No final decision on the future of Clare police office will be made until local people have been consulted – the recent public meeting in Clare Town Hall was told.

The lease expired in December but has been extended by six months for local people to give their views. Senior police officials: the county’s Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore, Deputy Chief Constable Gareth Wilson and Haverhill policing commander Insp Peter Ferrie were held to account by the 60 or so local residents who turned out on a bitter cold night to have their say.

When it was suggested by the police that the consultation could be done via an online survey – they were soon urged to think again. So alongside the online survey, the police will now be handing out paper survey forms in Clare and consulting each of the villages across the Bury Rural South area.

Assurances were given and promises made, that if the police office closes although the local safer neighbourhood team would start their working day in Haverhill they still be deployed here in our rural villages. They would not be diverted to duties in Haverhill. Insp Ferrie said he was also very confident that locally our police numbers would be retained although 83 police posts are to be lost across the county as the force copes with a cut of £16million from its £124m budget.

Operationally he wants to see the rural team start their day in Haverhill Police Station as he explained, their team leader is based there so it make sense for them to start each day with the senior staff charged with ‘briefing, tasking and supervising them.’

Mr Passmore said he was in talks with the county council to see if the police could share space at Clare fire station as part of the merged-blue-light service programme across the county where police and fire services are pooling resources and sharing buildings.

However, the local fire officer said they had been told that neither Clare nor Wicckhambrook fire stations were in the programme for shared property proposals. I therefore raised this with the fire chief Mark Hardingham who assured me that if there was an approach from the police they would look at it.

Residents challenged the panel on a range of policing issues – not least why the local team has been issued with a big 4×4 vehicle yet none of the PCSOs is allowed to drive it off road. The senior officers were unaware of this but promised to find out and report back. There was a suggestion that maybe our local team had only done the on road driving course. If that’s the case, let’s hope they soon get sent on the off road course as it seems a waste, especially in times of financial restraint, to have expensive equipment that cannot be used to its full potential.