Belfast Telegraph

Police force to sell unused £11m HQ

A police force that spent more than £11 million on a headquarters it has never used has announced it will sell the site after it has been empty for five years.

Hampshire Constabulary will put Alpha Park up for sale because it cannot afford to develop it and is unlikely to recoup the money it paid.

The building in Eastleigh was bought in 2008 at the height of the property boom for £9.6 million and the force has since spent an extra £1.836 million on upkeep, security, business rates and failed plans to turn it into an HQ for its 3,400 officers.

In 2010, chief constable Alex Marshall, who is now head of the College of Policing but was not in charge when the building was bought, was warned that the force could not afford the bill to refurbish the site that could have topped £40 million.

The issue was called "expensive and embarrassing" by the local police federation last year, but the force said the purchase of Alpha Park had the green light from the Audit Commission.

Hampshire Constabulary also announced it will sell its current headquarters in Winchester and move into a smaller building in the city it has bought for £1.5 million as it grapples with Government funding cuts of 20% over four years until 2015. That move is expected to land it with a cash windfall as the former HQ is ripe for development.

The force is also trying to save £4 million of taxpayers' money per year by sharing central services like finance and procurement with Hampshire County Council and Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service. This year it put its share of council tax up 3.4%.

The situation has been inherited by police and crime commissioner Simon Hayes who said: "Today is about a new direction and building the right foundations for the future. That means getting rid of back office buildings that we don't need and investing in new facilities and partnerships that will help us to make Hampshire and the Isle of Wight safer places."

The force also announced it would build two new police investigation centres (PICs) in Basingstoke and Portsmouth to provide short-term custodial care and support quicker processing of detainees Chief Constable Andy Marsh said: "Having the right buildings is key to a more effective and efficient police force - one that puts victims, witnesses and the community at the heart of policing." Crime in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight fell by 15% in 2012/13 compared with 2011/12.

Matthew Sinclair, chief executive of TaxPayers' Alliance, said: "Hampshire residents have every right to feel angry that millions of pounds of their money was squandered on this white elephant. Serious questions need to be asked of those who made decisions about the purchase of the building so they can be held to account. The priority now is to get the best possible deal for the taxpayer from the sale of the building."


From Belfast Telegraph