Four of Croydon’s police stations – Addington Village, Kenley, Norbury and South Norwood – are to be closed as London Mayor Boris Johnson wields the axe on the Met’s spending.
And according to an internal Metropolitan Police document seen by Inside Croydon, London’s boroughs could all yet be reduced to having just a single police station open 24 hours each day.
The news of the closure of South Norwood’s modern station and three others – including one in the Kenley ward of the Croydon and Sutton GLA member Steve O’Connell, and two in the Croydon North parliamentary constituency where a by-election is to be held on November 29 – was confirmed by local police at a meeting of Croydon Council’s scrutiny meeting this week.
Inside Croydon has had sight of an internal police document revealing the depths of police cuts across London.
The Met document says that the police will consult “with local authorities, council leaders, Assembly Members and MPs” and “that no decisions have been made”. No mention is made about consulting the public who pay for the police service.
The letter is in the name of Deputy Commissioner Craig Mackey, and seems to be heavily laced with irony in respect of no decisions having been made: some suggest that the cuts in the police service had been planned before the London Mayoral elections in May, but were kept quiet in case it had an impact on the public’s vote.
Now, barely a year since riots wrecked Croydon and large parts of the capital, Mayor Johnson, effectively London’s police commissioner, is putting into action cuts which could endanger the lives and property of millions of residents.
“I am concerned that the chairman of the Police Federation says that crime goes up in areas where police stations are closed,” Wayne Lawlor, a South Norwood councillor, said.
“Residents have raised the issue with me that having a police station presence in the area is re-assuring and sends the right signals to warn off possible offenders.
“Our police need to combat the fear of crime as well as crime itself and closing the South Norwood station compromises police work in providing public re-assurance.
“The absence of consultation by Mayor Boris Johnson is an affront to residents,” Lawlor said. “The Conservatives just don’t want to listen. They made decisions about closures in secret before the election in May. ”
The Mayor of London is seeking to cut police spending by 20 per cent while increasing public confidence in the police by 20 per cent and reducing neighbourhood crimes by the same magic 20 per cent figure.
But the internal Met communication shows just how deep the cuts will go, including the sell-off of one-third of the police force’s estate.
The Met is seeking to cut £500 million from their budget by 2015 – including considering moving from the iconic New Scotland Yard offices in Victoria that have been the Met’s HQ since the 1960s.
The letter to police officers says that the Met “is more expensive than the other 42 forces, with our support functions costing £93.40 per head compared with £51.50 across the rest of England and Wales”.
The letter says the police floor space need will be cut to 600,000sq m from 900,000sq m.
The police letter indicates that impersonal online reporting of crime by victims online is to be the preferred route in future.
The police letter argues that a retreat from the High Street is the best approach to achieve cuts. “The economic viability of keeping all these [police stations] open is stark. It’s not about reducing our service but looking at different ways of making ourselves accessible that suit Londoners and make economic sense.”
Police “desks” in branches of Tesco and Sainsbury’s may not be too long away. Police front counters will be slashed to just 65 in the whole of London the letter reveals. This shocking cut was in spite of a Conservative Mayoral election promise that all closed police stations would have a full-time replacement front counter.
“With 200 contact points in popular locations such as community centres, supermarkets and shared local authority buildings every borough will maintain one police station open 24/7,” said the letter. The concept of a single police station in a borough the size of Croydon seems extraordinary.
Croydon’s scrutiny committee heard that a public counter will be open at the Windmill Bridge custody centre, while central Croydon’s station will provide 24-hour service. Croydon Neighbourhood police teams may now have to cover two wards.
The scrutiny committee did hear Croydon police say that they are better prepared and resourced to deal with riots, with more officers now Level 2 riot trained and that more riot equipment available.
Labour party scrutiny guru Sean Fitzsimons was critical at the Town Hall meeting of what he saw as the betrayal of the community in London Road, which suffered most from the 8/8 riots last year and a community that he feels with so many public order challenges needs a high-profile police office.
London Road is also in the Croydon North constituency. There have been recent arrests there of people accused of running attempted gang-led extortion.
Labour’s Croydon North by-election candidate Steve Reed this week joined shadow Home Office minister David Hanson, local resident associations’ representatives and councillors outside South Norwood police station to protest about the lack of consultation over plans to sell off the station.
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