Norwood down to its last SNT police sergeant, Labour claims

The Labour group on the council says it is “disgusted” over a “behind closed doors” decision that leaves two Croydon wards, Upper Norwood and South Norwood, with just a single safer neighbourhood team police sergeant between them, down from three, all as a result of staffing cuts imposed from the Boris Johnson-run police authority.

Cliff Baxter, the South Norwood safer neighbourhood team sergeant, recently left that post. Lindsay Chapman, stationed at Gipsy Hill, was given the area of South and Upper Norwood SNTs to cover, until a replacement was found.

Upper Norwood alone has a population of 12,000 people. The SNT in the area has no police vehicle, and is expected to patrol the area on push bikes.

It has now emerged that Chapman is to move to Brent under plans from the London Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime, without any replacement for her or Baxter yet appointed.

“It is just over a year since the worst riots that Croydon has ever seen, yet in South and Upper Norwood police cuts are being waved through with the loss of local sergeants,” Pat Ryan, a councillor for Upper Norwood, said.

“I am disgusted that this decision has been taken behind the closed doors of Tory Mayor Boris Johnson’s office. It is a disgrace and affront to the hard-working police officers in Croydon. Some critical questions must be answered immediately: who knew about these plans, when did they know about them and why has this been kept a secret?”

Upper Norwood councillor Pat Ryan

This development is particularly troubling for residents in South Norwood, who feel left exposed with the planned closure of their local police station.

The closure of the station has been planned despite Johnson, even as recently as last week, telling the London Assembly that “no front counter will close unless an equivalent or better facility for public access has been identified”.

City Hall insiders fear that, so that the Met can off-load some very valuable real-estate, some police front desks could even be moved into local supermarkets, such as Sainsbury’s or Tesco; the idea is not so far-fetched when you consider that this week, it was announced that Sainsbury’s would in future take charge of the pharmacy services at St Thomas’s and Guy’s hospitals.

The Metropolitan Police has to cut £500 million from its budget under Boris, while still being expected to deliver crime reduction across London. By creating MOPAC, Mayor Johnson has taken greater control for policing, and therefore carries more responsibility for the matter.

While many local authorities will be electing their police commissioner next month, in London those powers are vested in the Mayor, and thence to MOPAC, which among its first actions was to appoint a handful of leading London Assembly Members to is board, such as Kenley’s Steve O’Connell, and offer them £500 a day in “allowances”.

The morale of serving Met officers is being ground down because of the budget cuts: the lack of a sergeant in the Norwood wards is, in part, due to the lack of any promotions to the rank since 2010. The likelihood of further promotions any time soon is remote.

Acting Police Sergeants are sometimes used to cover for missing sergeants: there was an APS in Shirley for more than two years. Acting sergeants, of course, are never paid as much as permanent sergeants. For the bean-counters at Scotland Yard, they are an easy, cheaper option.

Most APSs less service and therefore they cost less. From the public’s point of view, the APS’s experience and ability to deliver is less, and this can have detrimental impact to the service provided to the local community.

Paul Smith, Croydon Labour’s spokesman for crime prevention and public protection, said: “The Conservatives are telling people that policing priorities should be decided locally. However, the exact opposite is happening in Croydon.”

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