It’s been confirmed that sixty three of the capital’s 136 police front counters are to close as part of the biggest re-organisation of London policing in a generation.
On Monday Mayor Boris Johnson, Deputy Mayor for Policing Stephen Greenhalgh and Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe launched the final version of the Mayor’s Police and Crime Plan.
City Hall says the plan, which was subject to public consultation, will see more officers on the streets but at the cost of axing front counters and abolishing local specialist crime units.
Reductions in City Hall and central Government funding means the Met must save £500m over the next three years.
The force is responding to the challenge by cutting the amount it spends on buildings and reducing the number of officers who hold the rank of Sergeant and above.
Every borough will retain at least one 24/7 front counter but across London almost half will be closed.
The Mayor had originally promised that no front counter would be closed without a “equivalent or superior” facility first being opened. That promise looks to have been removed from the final version of the Plan, instead there will be new ‘Contact Points’ which operate for shorter hours than the current counters.
The Met says just 50 crimes a night are reported in person via a front counter.
Mayor Johnson and Sir Bernard have previously said the new policing model will lead to a more modern, more responsive service with the public able to request that the Police visit them, rather then needing to visit a station to report crime or make a statement.
The Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime has published the results of a poll which show that eight in 10 Londoners backed the decision to focus on maintaining officer numbers over keeping front counters open.
As part of the reforms the Met will also sell off its iconic New Scotland Yard HQ and move its senior management team to a smaller and less expensive building.
Launching the Plan in Dalston, the Mayor said: “Londoners have repeatedly told us that putting more officers on the streets is their top priority, not keeping them hidden behind desks in offices which the public rarely set foot in.
“By getting our police out onto the streets and into the heart of their communities, we will drive down crime and boost confidence, and at the same time build a Met Police Service which is leaner, more efficient and more effective.”
Sir Bernard told this site he was confident both that he had the officers he needed to cut crime and that those officers had the resources and back-up necessary to do their job.
Deputy Mayor Greenhalgh added that he and his team “have listened to what people want, which is to put bobbies before buildings.”
Opposition parties at City Hall have questioned the claimed increase in officer numbers.
Labour Police and Crime Spokesperson Joanne McCartney AM said: Londoners will lose nearly half of their police stations and, contrary to Boris’ claim, 17 of London’s 32 boroughs will see a reduction in the number of police officers they have.”
Ms McCartney accused the Mayor of “peddling his tired old line that his plan won’t cut frontline police services” and said it was “time he was honest with
Londoners and tells them he failed to get a good deal from government and now we are paying the price.”
Green Party Assembly Member Jenny Jones commented: “It’s disappointing that the Mayor has broken his promise to Londoners that no front counter will close without the alternative having the same amount of opening hours.
“The public throughout the consultation were told by the Mayor’s Office that the replacement for front counters would be an ‘equivalent service’, but now we see the details of his plan, we see that all day front counters could be replaced by 3 hour per week contact points, hardly equivalent service.”
Liberal Democrat Caroline Pidgeon said: “The Mayor is planning to decimate dedicated Safer Neighbourhood Teams and return to ‘sector’ policing which failed so many communities across London.
“At the same time the closure of 63 police front counters will dramatically reduce the ability of many Londoners to access the police, especially when reporting some of the most serious forms of crime.”