One of the key justifications for replacing the traditional Met’s borough-based command structure with a new cluster model has been called into question after Mayor Sadiq Khan admitted City Hall has no idea how much money the move will save.
Under the new model, dubbed the ‘Basic Command Unit’ (BCU) by Scotland Yard, resources including officers and cars are pooled across a much larger area, giving commanders greater flexibility about how they tackle local crime.
However performance within two trial clusters has been mixed and months of falling response times were only reversed after a decision was taken to resume deploying within the BCU areas along borough lines.
Mr Khan has repeatedly blamed the controversial decision to adopt the BCU structure on the need to make £400m in savings following further government cuts to the Met’s budget.
In June he told the London Assembly: “There are a number of things we are doing to make savings; from police counters, to police building, to police stations, to borough command units- many of which have been raised at Mayor’s Question Time (MQTs) previously – to police staff, to CSOs. There is a whole host of things we have to do to balance the books.”
This message was reiterated in September when the Mayor told a meeting of the Assembly’s Police and Crime Committee: “There are four separate things that we were hoping the borough mergers would lead to. Sorry, five. One is to save money, so five things.”
At the same meeting Khan told Assembly Members: “I am not going to pretend that one of the motivations around borough mergers and BCUs is not to save money,” adding that the anticipated final move to 12 clusters “would be the one to try to make these savings we need”.
However Mr Khan has now seemingly undermined his own claims that a wider rollout will help the Met achieve the necessary savings.
At October’s MQT, Labour AM Andrew Dismore tabled questions asking Mr Khan asking how much money had been saved in his local trial area of Camden and Islington and asking “How much do you expect to save in a year if the roll out of borough mergers takes place across London?”
Last week Mr Khan supplied an identical response to both questions, stating: “The full business case to enable final decisions to be taken on the Strengthening Local Policing programme is still being developed and therefore savings cannot be confirmed at this stage.”
Commenting on the Mayor’s response, Mr Dismore said: “Given one of the justifications for the mergers was the financial savings, it is rather surprising that no figures are available so far into the project.
“We are told that there will be an evaluation next month of the pilot mergers which will be published. I hope that this will include detailed figures and how they are calculated, as the mergers have caused considerable disruption and have not been popular with the public.
“Only with detailed figures will we be able to see the cost benefit of the mergers, and if they are worth the candle.”