At tonight's Council meeting, in my role as the Cabinet Member for Community Safety I announced an important shift in the Council's approach to making Croydon safer and cleaner.
At the moment, the Council provides a range of street-based services – Street Scene Officers who are responsible for identifying flytipping, grafitti etc and arranging for it to be dealt with; Neighbourhood Enforcement Officers (NEOs), uniformed Council officers who work with the police Safer Neighbourhood teams; the Mobile Enforcement Unit, uniformed Council officers with dogs; the Environmental Response Team who deal with graffiti; Veolia staff who deal with street cleaning and flytipping; Park Rangers; Neighbourhood Wardens, uniformed Council staff who work on our housing estates; and two separate Anti-Social Behaviour teams, one in the Community Services Department and one in the Adult Services & Housing Department. Each of these services has separate management arrangements and they use a number of different IT systems. In addition, we have the Metropolitan Police’s Safer Neighbourhood teams, who have wholly separate systems and management arrangements. The resources involved are considerable – over 300 staff between the two organisations plus contractors.
Both the Metropolitan Police and the Council believe that bringing these services together should improve the service to our residents and generate significant efficiency savings. In February, we therefore commissioned a review of these services. We now have completed the review and there are four main conclusions.
First, we intend to bring all these services – included the Safer Neighbourhood teams – into a unified team under a Head of Street Based Services reporting jointly to the Council and the Metropolitan Police at Director/Superintendent level.
Second, within this team we intend to have both area-based teams and a central team that we can deploy to those parts of the borough facing particular challenges at any point in time. Croydon is not a uniform borough – at any point in time, some areas will have greater needs than others and at the moment we lack a sufficient reserve of this kind to respond to those needs.
Third, if we can convince the senior management of the Metropolitan Police to give us the freedom to do so, our preference would be to base the area teams around the places identified in the draft Core Strategy. Many of our wards are artificial units that do not reflect community boundaries (eg the place called Shirley is split between three different wards - Shirley ward; Heathfield ward, which also includes parts of Addington and Selsdon; and Ashburton ward, which also includes part of Addiscombe). Because these places are generally larger than wards, this will have the added benefit of creating bigger local teams, which can provide cover for more of the week.
Finally, we are clear that, whilst residents recognise the contribution that PCSOs and NEOs make, what they also want to see is more police officers on our streets. In the past, the Council has been unwilling to pay for additional police officers because it has been unable to secure a sufficiently strong commitment that such officers will not be removed to duties elsewhere in London. We now have that commitment and we therefore envisage that the central team will include a significant number of new police officers alongside Council staff.
Tackling crime, fear of crime and the related issue of the quality of the street scene is this administration’s number one priority. We have put significant additional resources into this area over the last three years. We believe that by now bringing the police and disparate Council services engaged in this work into one team we will be able to provide a more responsive service to our residents, get more uniformed officers on our streets - including more police officers - and save Council Taxpayers money.
Over the next few months, we will be consulting the staff involved on these proposals and we hope to be in a position to set out our specific proposals - including how many additional police officers we will have - in March.