A CAMPAIGN has been launched to save Otley Police Station's already downgraded help desk.

West Yorkshire Police has earmarked the town's facility, along with 12 other station front counters, for closure in a bid to save hundreds of thousands of pounds.

In Otley, the station had already reduced office hours access to the public to five days a week in 2000. And if the closure does go through, it would mean people could no longer report a crime in person.

Although a police spokesman would not confirm a timetable for closure, he said: "Full details have yet to be finalised and we will ensure communities are given advance notice."

But the area's MP and councillors across the political divide have condemned the move - and are vowing to do all they can to overturn the decision.

Town Mayor Councillor Betty Bevan said: "I feel very concerned because the whole idea is to keep control over things and get quick access.

"It's bad enough that we know it's not manned at night at the moment. But to lose it would be very detrimental to the town, which is big enough to need a help desk. This is wrong and I think it's our right as citizens to have that access to the police. I'll be absolutely behind the campaign to stop this happening."

Liberal Democrat MP Greg Mulholland said: "I am appalled to hear of proposed cuts to Otley's police services; this flies in the face of the Government's commitment to community policing.

"We need police stations at the heart of our community and we have made great strides in recent years with the introduction of Police Community Support Officers. To make these cuts would mean Otley station will become no more than an operational base.

"The previous downgrading from a 24-hour station to working hours only was a retrograde step, however these cuts are a step too far.

"I call upon all local people to fight these cuts and I and all my colleagues will be doing all we can."

Fellow Lib Dem Ryk Downes, an Otley and Yeadon ward councillor, said: "These ludicrous cuts could mean that the people of Otley are left with nowhere to go if they require help and assistance.

"We will fight to secure the future of Otley police station, to ensure that local people have the service they need and deserve."

West Yorkshire police says the closure decisions have been made reluctantly, due to a "difficult" financial settlement with the Government, and are based on a review of help desks which identified those with less than 100 visits a week. The force believes it will save at least £318,000.

But Councillor Clive Fox (Con, Adel and Wharfedale) says Otley's help desk is a vital public service for the town and surrounding communities, and must be preserved.

He said: "We are coming close to the closure of Otley police station, something which despite official denials, has been on the cards for years.

"This latest move is one step closer towards Otley having no police presence at all. As it is already most people cannot understand why, when they know much of the time police officers are in the building, they are expected to pick up the external phone only to find themselves talking to people at Weetwood station

"The police station is an important public service which serves not just Otley but a much wider area. For a town that once boasted its own courthouse and 24-hour operational station, this proposal is nothing less than a further dumbing-down of the police service in Wharfedale."

Pool-in-Wharfedale Parish Council Chairman Hazel Lee said: "It would be terrible for Otley not to have a help desk. It gives people a sense of security if there's somebody they can approach if they have any problem."

The first step in the campaign to save the facility will begin when petitions start to be delivered to homes in Otley on Saturday.