POLICE say that a cut in numbers and the relocation of their base has hindered officers’ presence in Westhoughton.

PCs Paul Griffiths and Phil Burrows made the comments at a town council meeting on Monday after councillors asked for their attendance.

PC Griffiths said the Westhoughton team had been reduced from four officers and four PCSOs to two officers and three PCSOs.

And he said being based at Horwich Police Station in Middlebrook meant they were spending less time in Westhoughton.

PC Griffiths said: “The current situation is that there are two police officers in Westhoughton and three PCSOs, as opposed to three years ago when we had four police officers and four PCSOs in the small unit in Pavillion Square, which is no longer a police station.

“We now operate from the Middlebrook station, which is already causing issues because we are not based in Westhoughton.

“When we started at 7am at Pavillion Square we were right in the middle of the town right from minute one. Now it could be 9am when we get into Westhoughton when we are on early.

“It’s simply because we start our tour of duty four miles away and there is horrendous traffic in the morning. Sometimes it will be 9am before we set foot in Westhoughton.

“That is reducing the amount of time we spend in Westhoughton. That’s where we are.

“As regards the current crime trend there has been an increase nationally, mainly because of the decrease in numbers of officers. GMP has gone from 8,000 in 2002 and we are now at 6,300.

“We are getting more and more calls and fewer and fewer cops to deal with the calls.”

Westhoughton Police Station in Pavilion Square has since been turned into a card shop after its closure a few years ago.

The meeting in Westhoughton Town Hall came after comments from area councillor David Wilkinson, who said that law and order was ‘breaking down’. And recent statistics revealed that crime rose in Greater Manchester by more than 30 per cent in the past 12 months.

Cllr Wilkinson said: “It is all about the big issues, with the loss of numbers of officers and the impact of national issues like terrorism, cybercrime and historical sexual offence issues.

“They drain resources from every police force in the country.

“The big impact has been on neighbourhood policing.

“I remember when you had two other colleagues in Westhoughton.

“To the public it seems that there has been an increase in anti-social behaviour in various places in the town as well as related crime issues around car theft and burglary.

“As a town council we do support the police with the CCTV in the town centre.

“We have a vast number of home watch schemes in Westhoughton and obviously we fund one of the police cars. I think a quarter of our budget goes on crime-related preventative measures.”

But he said he sympathised with the officers’ position.