A final thought (for now) on last week’s London Assembly Policing and Crime Committee meeting.
Stephen Greenhalgh has an important job to do – the Met wastes too much money on overtime, senior officers delight in enjoying expensive perks many of those they serve can only dream of, and the Met’s estate is the wrong mix and shape for the job at hand.
Tackling the first two of these will provoke cries of protest from within the Met, the third from communities worried about what change means for them and – history tells us – local politicians keen to exploit such concern.
Around the Assembly table are parties and politicians who collectively have spent more than a decade calling for reforms in all of these areas.
Assembly Members could make powerful allies for Greenhalgh and, ultimately, Boris Johnson as they force through the needed changes.
A Mayor who can cite the support of other parties could easily see off briefings from the vested interests inside the Met and be able to reassure communities that changes weren’t being driven by a single political dogma, but by a real need to improve and modernise the service they receive.
Yet last week’s handling of Bernard Hogan-Howe’s non-appearance has caused ill-feeling which, if allowed to fester, could make such co-operation less likely, if not impossible.
Boris knows from TfL just how hard it is to change the waste culture of London’s institutions. Angering Assembly Members and creating unnecessary divisions will not help him succeed in reshaping the Met.
He should adopt a more conciliatory tone and co-operative approach with the Assembly, including ensuring Hogan-Howe or his deputy attend future meetings in keeping with past promises.
In return Boris might just find that AMs are happy to press the Commissioner on these points in public, relieving him and his administration of the ‘heavy lifting’ and preparing the ground for the changes to come.