Transport for London has insisted it enjoys a “strong, positive and productive relationship” with the Met despite withholding £1.6m of funding from a joint roads and transport policing unit.
Last year budget cuts forced the two agencies to merge the Safer Transport Command, which policed the bus network and was part-funded by TfL, with the Met’s Traffic Command to create a new Roads and Transport Policing Command (RTPC).
As previously reported, the two agencies initially struggled to agree what service and outputs each would get for their money and a final agreement was reached just weeks before the Mayor officially unveiled the new taskforce to the media.
But it’s now emerged that an “ongoing dispute” between the two sides over staffing has led TfL to withhold £1.6m of the cash it’s meant to pay toward the taskforce’s running costs.
The row first came to light in budget documents drawn up by the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime which cited the withheld money as part of a wider £20m shortfall in third-party funding which was creating pressure on the Met’s finances.
Further detail was provided by Met Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe in a letter to the London Assembly’s police and crime committee.
Sir Bernard said that “perceived” failures by the Met “to deliver on agreements and assurances during the RTPC design process” were behind TfL’s decision to withhold the cash.
According to his letter the dispute was first raised in June when the transport agency became concerned about “a perceived diminution of oversight” of staff after they were moved from TfL’s Palestra HQ to a Met facility.
TfL is said to be unhappy about a “reduction in the levels of operational engagement” between them and the Met “arising from this change”
The Commissioner also said TfL was claiming a “failure to deliver wider performance data relating to RTPC objectives and outcomes” and that despite efforts to mitigate concerns “they remained unsatisfied and as of 1st October this dispute became formal”.
His letter dated 19th October says efforts to resolve differences were “ongoing”.
Steve Burton, TfL’s Director of Enforcement and On-Street Operations, has sought to play down the dispute saying: “As part of recent organisational changes, the Met has moved some staff to work outside of our control centre.
“We have temporarily put on hold a small proportion of our payments to them while we fully examine the implications together.”
Burton insisted that relations with the Met remain “strong, positive and productive” and that the two agencies continue to work together to improve road safety and reduce crime on the transport network.
With the dispute spilling over into a fifth month one London Assembly member has called on the Mayor to publish the contract between his two agencies and ensure any differences are settled as quickly as possible.
Baroness Jenny Jones commented: “I warned the Mayor over a year and a half ago that he needed to pay close attention to the priorities that emerged from Transport for London’s negotiations with the Met Police about their new traffic and transport command.”
The Green party AM added: “People want to be able to travel to work, shop and play in a safe environment. The Met Police haven’t always seen this as core policing which is why Transport for London want to see real results for their money.”