Fewer than 10 per cent of the police stations across the county - only York, Harrogate and Scarborough - are open to members of the public at any time of the day or night.

The remaining 28 are open from 9am to 5pm or slightly longer. That figure - which is fewer than the national average of 13 per cent - does not take into account closed York stations such as the one in Acomb or Clifford Street, which are still manned and used by officers for administration purposes, but which are not open for members of the public to drop in.

Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Phil Willis said: "Ten per cent is pretty dismal and when you add that to an inefficient call handling system you realise how detached the public are from frontline policing other than by calling 999. That's a huge criticism.

"They can't pop into their local police station, nor can they call it.

"You are then stuck out on a limb with a call centre taking your call. I don't blame the frontline police for this, it is purely down to the senior management's use of resources.

"When you add to that the small number of police officers on duty after 10pm it's very worrying."

North Yorkshire Police spokesman Tony Lidgate said: "The situation with police stations changes all the time, and so it should, because they should broadly be where they are needed, rather than where there has historically been a police station.

"The question of whether or not something counts as a police station is a confusing subject."

He said in some villages there were central "community copshops", where people could drop in to a base shared with other local services such as tourist information.

Mr Lidgate said: "Bobbies should be out bobbying as long as they are available when and where they are needed.

"The idea of having a bobby sitting all night long at Pateley Bridge police station would be an absolute disgrace and a waste of public money.

"It is best to have resources concentrated sensibly and strategically and putting them together to cover a lot of different things."

There is still an all-hours response team in some stations which are not open to the public all the time.

But Mike Radford, of Glebe Avenue, Acomb, York, who helped organise a campaign to have the local police station re-opened, said there was a need for more police stations to be open 24 hours a day.

He said: "We talk about things moving on but they're going backwards. When the police station was open everyone thought it was brilliant.

"I think it should be open 24-7 because Acomb is a big area with lots of people living here, and there are lot of problems within Acomb itself, particularly in terms of vandalism.

"Sometimes, just the presence of a police station is enough to deter crime. If they knew there were officers around 24-7 it might stop them committing crime in the first place."

He said it would also mean that police officers would not have to travel across the city to get to incidents - which would reduce the risk of accidents.

The building in Acomb Road, which was once a fully-functioning police station with a front counter, has been used as a training centre and "drop-in" base for officers on foot patrol since 2003.

The Press revealed last year how police are planning a new £24.5 million police station and custody block on the outskirts of York, which would replace the city's Fulford Road police station. It is not yet known whether that would be open at night.

But Mark Botham, chairman of North Yorkshire Police Federation, said the situation had improved in recent years.

He said: "In the past, we didn't have any open to the public at night.

"We are trying to offer a service to the public without spending money unnecessarily, but having worked night shifts in places like Skipton it's sods law that you either get nobody or you're inundated."

He said the police stations which closed at 5.30pm all had yellow phones outside for people to use if they wanted.

The figures come just a week after officers were told not to arrest anyone "unless absolutely necessary" on the Friday before Christmas, according to police federation chairman Mark Botham.

But Assistant Chief Constable Peter Bagshaw denied the claims.