THE front counters at all Herefordshire's market town police stations are to close.

West Mercia Police has today confirmed the desks at Bromyard, Kington, Ledbury, Leominster and Ross-on-Wye will be taken away from the beginning of next month.

The front counters at South Wye in Hereford and Peterchurch will also shut.

They will all be replaced by an intercom system connecting the public to a police 'call-taker'.

The force, which also covers Shropshire and Worcestershire, says the move is part of a "more modern and effective way " of operating its services.

Hereford's front desk will remain open every day.

“The public access our services in many ways, but we have seen the number of people calling at public counters drop in recent years," said chief superintendent Amanda Blakeman, who led a review into 'public contact and front counter provision' which prompted the decision.

"Our review will close some public counters across West Mercia but our analysis of demand has provided evidence which has allowed us to take these steps without impacting the level of service enjoyed by communities.

“This is an opportunity to deliver a more consistent, professional service, which will enable more officers to be deployed where and when they are needed the most in our communities.

"There are a range of methods for public contact and service including calling 101, the introduction of 24/7 contact points at stations to connect callers to the police, 115 Safer Neighbourhood Teams, monthly community meetings and drop-in surgeries."

Across the force, a total of 21 front counters will close from September 1.

The police say areas where front counters are to close will see Safer Neighbourhood Teams step up patrols as well as increasing community meetings and forums.

"The police must be accessible to people," said Bill Longmore, police and crime commissioner for West Mercia.

"I am keen to explore how we can continue to do this in a way that suits the different communities we have in West Mercia, whilst making the most of the resources we have.

"We are currently exploring opportunities to share resources such as front counters with partners wherever possible."

Hereford's front desk on Bath Street will remain open from 8am-8pm six days a week and 10am-4pm on Sunday and bank holidays.