ONE Gwent town's police shortage is reaching crisis point, amid claims that on some days there are no officers on duty.

After weeks of meetings between police chiefs and politicians over the lack of adequate policing, one police source told the Argus Monmouth is occasionally completely unmanned.

The claim was refuted by Sergeant Paul Waters, of Monmouth police. He said there were times when there were no officers in the town but added: "With very few exceptions - even when the actual station is closed - there are always police officers on patrol in the area."

Sergeant Waters said EU working directives have offered greater flexibility to officers' shifts, adding: "There are no plans to close Monmouth police station."

Monmouth Festival started yesterday and committee chairman Neill Bell, said: "We have a large number of stewards and will be self-policing the festival.

"But we generally have a couple of officers on call. I haven't been told one way or the other whether that will be the case this year." The Argus has highlighted concerns over the lack of police cover in the town.

Abergavenny's inspector, Allyn Richards, met Inspector James Walker, of Monmouth, to review policing northern Monmouthshire with the number of officers available - a situation both described as "less than ideal".

Both said the problem had been made worse recently because some of their officers have been unable to work, through ill-health and other issues.

Monmouth Councillor Richard Cass told the Argus: "I knew Monmouth station was completely unmanned at night but I didn't know it was happening during the day. Even when it opens its hours are 9am to 5pm but most crime falls outside those hours.

"Monmouth is growing and the town needs a permanently manned station."

Monmouthshire county council chiefs meet Joy Lott, superintendent for B Division - which covers Monmouthshire - on Monday to question her over falling police numbers.

Councillor Pam Birchall, who heads community safety and public protection, said: "If we don't get some good answers on Monday then we'll have to start fighting dirty."