Police response times in the two areas trialling a new multi-borough command structure have significantly improved, according to new figures provided by City Hall.
Historically the Met has policed along local council boundaries, with each borough having its own allocation of officers, vehicles and dedicated borough commander.
However cuts to the force’s budget has seen it abolish this traditional structure in two ‘pathfinder’ clusters and move to a new structure dubbed the ‘Basic Command Unit’ (BCU) which sees borough commands abolished and resources pooled across a much larger area.
BCU is currently being trialled in two areas, one comprising Barking and Dagenham, Redbridge and Havering boroughs (BCU East Area) and a second made up of Camden and Islington (BCU Central North).
If deemed successful, the new model will be rolled out across the whole of London, reducing the current 32 local commands to around half that number.
Both the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime and Scotland Yard say the changes will not only help save money, but will offer better and more integrated local policing. However BCU has been unpopular with some community groups and politicians who fear it will make the Met less responsive to local needs.
In March, Labour politicians in Lambeth called for the borough to be exempted from any wider roll-out, arguing that their area had specific issues which could only be addressed by a dedicated borough commander working with local politicians and stakeholders.
Criticism of the new structure reached its highest level yet when, in August, Barking council leader Darren Rodwell published a letter to Mayor Sadiq Khan in which he claimed the Met had only answered emergency calls within target on 52% of occasions since the pilot started.
Councillor Rodwell also claimed his local BCU “was under resourced and…unable to provide proactive and visible policing at this moment in time”.
His criticisms prompted Mr Khan to describe response times as “unacceptable” and to order Scotland Yard commanders to deliver “immediate improvements”.
Since those comments were made, the Met has made changes to its IT systems to help improve the deployment of officers and Sophie Linden, the deputy mayor for policing and crime, has held a series of fortnightly meetings with senior officers where she receives personal updates on wider efforts to boost performance.
The figures released by City Hall show these efforts have delivered a substantial improvement since July when just 48% of calls made in the East Area BCU were answered in time.
As of this Monday (October 16th) the area’s performance stood at 82% while the Central North BCU achieved 83%, up from 74% in July.
The figures were released following criticism from Conservative party London Assembly member Keith Prince who has accused Ms Linden of excluding him from a meeting with local council leaders to discuss performance in the East Area.
Mr Prince, who represents City Hall’s Havering and Redbridge constituency, said: “This is an important and worrying issue for residents in my boroughs who have seen emergency response times plummet.
“As a representative of two of the affected boroughs who can hold the Met to account through the London Assembly, I’ve asked to be part of this meeting.
“Bizarrely the Deputy Mayor declined. The current situation with falling response times is unacceptable and we need answers to address this urgently. Refusing to engage with all the interested parties is not good enough.”
Responding to Mr Prince’s comments, a City Hall spokesperson said the deputy mayor was “always happy to meet with assembly members” but added the meeting in question was “with the leaders of Barking and Dagenham, Havering and Redbridge earlier this month specifically to discuss their views on the progress of the East BCU Pathfinders at local authority level.”
The spokesperson added: “The BCU pathfinders trial is to test a new model of local policing in the face of huge budget cuts over the coming years as a result of the government’s failure to properly fund policing in London.
“The most recent figures in fact show that response times are back to levels before the pathfinder trial.
“City Hall remains in close contact with the Met and local councils on the progress of the trial and any changes that need to be made.”
“The pathfinder is being evaluated and decisions will be taken on further roll-out when this has been completed.”
|Month||BCU Central North||BCU East Area|
|Week ending 16 October||83%||82%|
Source: Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime