Government cuts force Mayor to reduce police front counters

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan today (Wednesday 1st November) confirmed plans to reduce the number of police front counters in London and save an additional £8 million – equivalent to the cost of 140 police constables – in order to protect and support frontline policing as much as possible, and keep Londoners safe, in the face of Government cuts to police funding.

These cuts to Metropolitan Police funding mean police officer numbers in London are falling, and this meant Sadiq having to consult on drastic measures in order to prioritise public safety and police officers on the beat.

Every pound that is spent keeping a police station or front counter open is a pound that would otherwise need to be found from further cuts to police officer numbers.

Just eight per cent of crimes were reported at police front counters in 2016, down from 22 per cent in 2006, and this number continues to fall. Since 2010, the Met’s budget has been reduced by £600 million. A further £400 million of savings have to be found by 2021. Yet the opportunities to generate more income or make substantial savings are diminishing as the force has been cut to the bone, and unless the Government’s funding cuts stop now officer numbers could fall below 27,500 by 2021 – a 19-year low.

The Mayor understands the very legitimate concerns of Londoners about these police front counter closures, which is why he held the widest possible consultation with public meetings in every London borough as well as responses being encouraged via surveys and written responses. Around 4,000 Londoners submitted their views, and their contributions have been carefully considered. In some boroughs, the draft plans have been changed as a result.

The final plans, published today, include:

  • Maintaining a 24/7 police front counter service in every borough, with an additional daytime counter in Westminster and proposals to discuss an additional front counter near Grenfell Tower from early 2018 with the local community. This would remain open for at least two years and respond to local concerns.
  • Changes to the strategy following the strong views represented in the public consultation. These include 24/7 front counters remaining at Dagenham Police Station and Bexleyheath Police Station.
  • Disposing of underused buildings in order to raise £165 million of capital to invest in ensuring frontline police are properly equipped.
  • Police officers will patrol in crime hotspot areas so they can reach the scene of emergencies quickly – police officers rarely respond to incidents from police stations or bases, but respond from where they are patrolling in vehicles in the community.
  • London’s Dedicated Ward Officers – whose numbers the Mayor is doubling by the end of this year – will be based at new hubs far closer to their local ward and the community they patrol, making them more visible and accessible. They will hold new well-advertised community sessions every week in every ward. These will be in well used, high footfall locations – such as leisure centres and local authority buildings – to provide a more flexible and convenient way for Londoners to engage with their local officers. These sessions will replace the previous Mayor’s failed system of Contact Points which have an average attendance of one or none*.
  • Nine communities which are over an hour from their nearest front counter – five of which are as a result of police station closures under the previous Mayor – will be provided with additional community sessions so that their residents can meet officers face to face more often. These communities are Barnet town centre, Enfield Chase, Cockfosters and Southgate in Enfield, Coulsdon in Croydon, Stanmore in Harrow, and Harfield, Ikenham/West Ruislip and Northwood in Hillingdon
  • More focus on telephone services – which account for 70 per cent of crime reporting.
  • An improved digital offer – a new online reporting service launched for testing in March and which has already delivered a 350 per cent rise in online reporting, with 1,200 reports a week made during its initial phase.
  • New technology will allow police officers to spend more time on the beat in their communities, where they will be on hand to tackle the issues that matter most to Londoners, such as knife crime, anti-social behaviour, hate crime and extremism, and domestic abuse.

The Mayor and the Met Commissioner are confident that bearing in mind the government cuts these final plans maintain the best possible service for Londoners, and will provide the access to the police they need, especially in an emergency. The Met is clear: the closing of a police station does not mean the withdrawal of policing from a community. It does mean the maximum possible support for frontline police officer numbers.

The combination of one 24/7 front counter in every borough, more Dedicated Ward Officers in every neighbourhood – located closer to communities, new community sessions in every ward – every week, two sessions each week for communities an hour away from their nearest police station, and a significantly improved online service will mean that Londoners will be able to contact the police in the way that suits them best.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “The drastic nature of Government cuts to policing budgets has left us with no choice but to take drastic action and make some very difficult decisions.

“Keeping Londoners safe is my number-one priority, and supporting officers out on the beat in our communities is more important than keeping open buildings that are simply not used by the vast majority of the public, and where just eight per cent of crimes are reported.

“Nevertheless, I understand and share some of the very legitimate concerns of Londoners about these closures. That is why we held the widest possible consultation with public meetings in every London borough and we have listened very carefully to the feedback.

“I am confident that these final plans maintain the best possible service for Londoners, and will provide the access to the police that they need – especially in an emergency. The combination of one 24/7 front counter in every borough, more dedicated local officers in better contact with the communities they serve, and a significantly improved online service will mean that Londoners are able to contact the police in the way that suits them best.

“The fact is that as a result of government cuts, police officer numbers are falling, and every pound spent keeping a police station open is a pound that would otherwise need to be found by cutting police officer numbers even further. That is why, at a time of crime rising nationally and the terrorism threat we face, I continue to call on Ministers to urgently end the police funding crisis.”

Cressida Dick, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, said: “I fully share the Mayor’s commitment to keeping Londoners safe, and the men and women of the Met work tirelessly to deliver that commitment. I am confident that these changes will not impact on our ability to deliver this. We know that the ways in which the public want to contact us have changed, so we absolutely must continue to transform, focusing on serving the public as best we can. Of course we know there will be some people who need to speak to a police officer face to face, and there are still many ways in which they can do that.

“The most effective place for our officers to be is out on the streets. Be that on patrol responding to the public, proactively out tackling crime on operations or in their communities forging stronger, better links gaining vital local information.

“We must be a modern forward looking organisation, with better, more effective technology so we can equip our staff to do their jobs whilst on the beat. This is not simply about the constraints on our budget, but future proofing how we deliver front line policing and the difficult choices we face.”

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