City Hall and Scotland Yard’s plans to scrap London’s 32 dedicated borough commanders and adopt a new structure of 12 regional commanders have been opposed by Lambeth’s three Labour MPs and the borough’s London Assembly member.
The Met and Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime, which sets the force’s strategic direction, say the changes will allow commanders greater flexibility in how resources are used.
However opponents argue that the move risks distancing the Met from the communities it serves, making it less responsive to local concerns and undermining efforts to build relationships with local stakeholders.
There are also concerns that expanding each commander’s area of responsibility will make it impossible for them to have constructive and meaningful relationships with each MP, councillor and Assembly Member on their patch.
Such links are seen by many politicians as an essential bridge between the force and the Londoners they represent.
Trials of the new arrangements are already underway with Barking & Dagenham, Redbridge and Havering forming one regional cluster and Camden and Islington forming another.
A decision on whether to roll-out the changes more widely will be taken by MOPAC and the Met based on feedback from the trials.
Questioned by London Assembly members in February, Sadiq Khan’s deputy mayor for policing, Sophie Linden, admitted the changes were unpopular with some politicians in the trial areas.
Addressing the Assembly’s police and crime committee, she said some council leaders had already expressed “nervousness”. “Is everyone happy with it? No,” she added.
Some councillors have privately expressed concern that commanders would “go the extra mile” to ensure they’re accessible during the trial phase in order to secure political backing but that their increased workload would make this unsustainable in the longterm.
Asked about such concerns, Acting Commissioner Craig Mackey last week told this site: “I hope not, but I can understand that concern. People always, whether its a change in our own personal life or whether it’s change in a work environment, people always have concerns.”
Mr Mackey, who is in temporary charge of the Met until the arrival of new Commissioner Cressida Dick next month, said that with budgets under pressure “you either take money out of senior managers and leaders and roles like mine, or you take it out of the frontline.”
On Monday MPs Helen Hayes, who represents Dulwich and West Norwood, Vauxhall MP Kate Hoey, Chuka Umunna, MP for Streatham, and London Assembly member Florence Eshalomi published a joint letter calling for plans to merge the role of Lambeth Commander with Southwark’s to be dropped.
In their letter, they say that Lambeth is a “unique” borough with “high levels of youth violence and domestic violence” which has at times had an “extremely challenged” relationship with the Met.
The four representatives add that the “uniquely high” number of stop and searches carried out in the borough, which totalled 12,000 last year, “has been the cause of much upheaval and tension within our communities for over a generation.”
Their letter continues: “The leadership role that a single borough commander plays in this context is absolutely critical.
“In our view, removing a dedicated Borough Commander for Lambeth would be detrimental to our communities, to our visitors and tourists and to our local businesses.”
The signatories are seeking a meeting with Commissioner Dick to discuss their concerns.
Proposals to scrap dedicated Borough commanders across London were previously brought forward during Boris Johnson’s mayoralty but were eventually dropped after political and public opposition.