REDUCED public access at two York police stations is damaging attempts to put the community at the heart of the fight to crack crime, according to senior Liberal Democrats.

Launching their party's local anti-crime policy, Coun Irene Waudby, shadow executive member for community safety, criticised changes in the way Acomb and Clifton Moor police stations are run.

Liberal Democrats have put the community-led approach at the heart of their manifesto commitments to cutting crime and anti-social behaviour.

As recently reported in the Evening Press, the two stations have downgraded their public access functions and specialist services will now be based there.

In place of the public access will be an "open door" policy at Clifford Street Police Station, where members of the public can meet Safer York Partnership (SYP) staff face to face to discuss crime issues.

But Coun Waudby said: "This (downgrading) runs counter to the community-based policing approach which we believe is essential to tackling anti-social behaviour.

"It will do nothing to increase public confidence in the policing system."

Chief Superintendent John Lacy, area commander for York, said the new arrangements made more efficient use of the resources the York officers had to work with.

He said: "The basic features of the new team are to separate 'response officers' and 'community officers', with each team having different responsibilities.

"We say goodbye to the former geographical divisions and view York as a whole, which allows us the flexibility to deliver the full range of services to the people and locations in greatest need."

Coun Bob Scrase, City of York Council's executive member for community safety, pointed to an amendment he forwarded at Tuesday's full council meeting, which discussed the community-based approach to effective policing in York and recognised the good work done by the Safer York Partnership.

Coun Scrase said: "That amendment alone demonstrates the Labour group's commitment to the community approach and positive participation.

"Having a go at the police is not going to get the co-operation we are looking for."

Conservative group leader John Galvin said the police should be allowed to get on with managing their own affairs.

He said: "The time has come for the politicians to keep their dirty hands out of the police management system.

"Let's see how it works before we condemn it. As far as I am concerned I will support the police in their attempts to improve the service they provide."

Updated: 10:06 Friday, April 18, 2003