The leader of Barking and Dagenham Council has written “a stark letter” to Mayor Sadiq Khan warning that the merger of its local Met police borough with those of Redbridge and Havering has left officers “struggling to deliver effective policing”.
Scotland Yard and Mayor Khan’s office have embarked on a controversial pilot scheme merging the three boroughs into a single command unit, with a second trial being conducted in Camden and Islington.
Instead of each borough having its own local commander and dedicated resources, as was previously the case, the new Basic Command Unit structure sees officers and other resources pooled across the expanded area.
The Met and City Hall claim the new arrangements allow commanders greater flexibility in how resources are used, but opponents argue that the move risks distancing the Met from the communities it serves.
As previously reported, some councillors are also concerned that expanding each commander’s area of responsibility will make it impossible for them to have constructive and meaningful relationships with local politicians, weakening local police accountability and, potentially, local crime fighting initiatives.
Labour councillor Darren Rodwell, who leads Barking and Dagenham Council, has now gone public with his worries that the move to the new structure is failing residents.
In a letter dated August 4th, he wrote: “Residents need reassurance in the form of a visible police presence and I am unconvinced that the Basic Command Unit (BCU) will be able to deliver this as it currently stands.”
“Three months on it is apparent we are nowhere near providing the service we need to keep our residents safe.”
Mayor Khan has previously blamed the mergers, which could be rolled out across the whole of London, on government funding cuts.
“It is evident that Barking and Dagenham is under resourced and our BCU is unable to provide proactive and visible policing at this moment in time,” said Cllr Rodwell.
“The most recent figures I have seen for police response times show just 52% of emergency calls in our borough are being responded to within the Met’s own target time – the worst in London.
“This is shocking and simply not good enough for our residents.”
In his letter Cllr Rodwell adds that he is “totally opposed” to plans to close police stations, adding: “Residents’ anxieties will increase yet further if we are to lose six buildings, including Dagenham Police Station.”
He signs off the letter stating: “I want to see the BCU succeed but this will be impossible if it does not have the resources it needs to meet the challenge presented by our growing population, high levels of crime and our changing position in London.”
UPDATE: Response times in some areas taking part in the trials have been branded “unacceptable” by London Mayor Sadiq Khan who has ordered Scotland Yard to deliver “immediate improvements”. Read the full story.