Another raft of police reorganisation has been announced and, like all such re-organisations, the change is not to make the service better, just cheaper. For once, there seems to be cross-party unanimity over the proposals, as no party appears to like the move, but there is likewise no political will to find the money to pay for the number of police officers London needs.
Croydon’s borough command is to be merged with Bromley and Sutton, as part of the Metropolitan Police’s efforts to save £325million by 2021-2022.
The move has already been opposed by Bromley’s Tory MP and Sutton’s LibDem parliamentarian; Croydon’s Labour MPs have yet to make any comment on the reorganisation.
The fear, as expressed by Chislehurst MP Bob Neill, is that after the merger, police resources will be directed away from areas with less crime – such as Bromley – and towards those boroughs with higher crime rates, such as Croydon.
“Every borough is very different and it has very different problems and there is a real risk that this is a one-size-fits-all approach,” was the view expressed by Tom Brake, the LibDem MP for Carshalton and Wallington. “This would not be suitable for Sutton.”
The current 32-borough command model is being replaced by 12 Basic Command Units, or BCUs. After sustaining widespread cuts in police officers since 2010, the Met’s numbers are due to fall to 30,000 by April, but the Met says that the BCUs will “improve efficiency”. Across Croydon, Sutton and Bromley, for example, instead of three borough commanders, there will in future be a single BCU commander at chief superintendent rank.
The scheme will be phased in over the next 12 months, and follows a trial involving Camden and Islington police working together as one, and a merger in Redbridge, Havering, Barking and Dagenham.
Kenley Conservative councillor Steve O’Connell, who is the London Assembly’s chair of the police and crime committee, said that that trial was “inconclusive in its effectiveness”.
O’Connell said, “In rolling out these major changes all at once, there is a risk lower-crime boroughs will be neglected and satisfaction levels with our police service could decline.”
Sadiq Khan, the London Mayor, says that the Met’s decision was being “driven” by Government cuts to the force’s budget, but said the BCU model has been “designed with Londoner’s safety as the absolute priority”.
“The new units will be designed for every area of London in order to meet the needs of local people and tackle local priorities,” the Mayor said.
“Tory MPs from London and around the country voted – once again – to make huge cuts to the police budget,” Khan said.
“In London alone, £700million has been cut from the Met’s budget. These cuts mean that in London, we’ve lost 2,495 officers and 3,261 Police Community Support Officers.
“Due directly to Theresa May’s cuts, the Met still needs to find a further £370million of savings by 2022 – meaning police numbers could fall below 27,500 by 2021, the lowest level since 2002.
“It’s not just policing that has suffered under the Tories, but the services that tackle the root causes of crime, too. In London, more than £22million has been cut from youth services since 2011 and 30 youth centres have closed, losing at least 12,700 places for young people.
“Under the Tories, crime is rising across Britain. This is a national problem that requires national solutions. This Tory Government is failing in its first responsibility: to keep the public safe.”
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