Yesterday, the Mayor of London published his draft Police & Crime Plan.
It contained the very welcome news that Croydon will get an extra 117 police officers by 2015 compared with what we had in 2011. Only one of the 31 other boroughs in London is seeing a higher increase. 21 boroughs are getting an increase of fewer than 50 officers and 11 are getting an increase of fewer than 10.
This is hugely significant. When I ask my constituents what they are most concerned about, the most common answer is crime. And the perception of crime in Croydon is even worse than the reality – it is one of the things that puts some people off living here and some businesses off locating here. For years, we have argued that we weren’t getting a fair share of Metropolitan Police resources (as evidenced, for example, by the number of recorded offences per police officer in each borough, which I have listed at the end of this post), but we couldn’t get anyone to listen. Now Boris has done something about it. I argued in the run-up to last year’s Mayoral election that it was important to have a Mayor who understood and cared about outer London – today’s announcement shows why. We never got this share of Met resources when Ken was at City Hall. Our London Assembly member Steve O’Connell deserves a huge amount of credit too for a persistent lobbying campaign behind the scenes.
But there’s a lot more to the draft Police & Crime Plan than just an increase in police numbers. The Mayor sets out his mission for policing:
- for London to be considered the greatest and safest big city on earth;
- for the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) to become the UK’s most effective, most efficient, most respected and even most loved police force; and
- for a capital city where all public services work together and with communities to prevent crime, seek justice for victims and reduce re-offending.
I am particularly pleased to see the reference to increasing respect for the Met. Effective policing depends on good intelligence from the local community and that depends on people having confidence that the police are on their side. Though the Met has made huge strides since the 1980s, there is still a long way to go on this front and there’s a good section of the Plan devoted to supporting the Commissioner to drive out racism and corruption in the service where it exists.
The Plan sets the Metropolitan Police Service a key objective – to meet what it refers to as the 20:20:20 challenge:
– to deliver a 20% cut in seven priority high impact, high volume neighbourhood crimes (violence with injury, robbery, burglary, theft from the person, theft from motor vehicles, theft of motor vehicles and vandalism/criminal damage); and
- to deliver a 20% increase in public confidence; while
- experiencing a 20% budget cut.
How is this to be done?
First, by keeping police numbers as high as possible at or around 32,000 but within that total having less management and more constables (the Plan says that the Met currently has 37 senior managers, 7,160 supervisors and 24,630 constables and says that will shift to 26 senior managers, 6,022 supervisors and 25,909 constables). This is the right thing to do, but it will have consequences for prospects for promotion in the short term.
Second, by increasing visibility via new local policing model with more resource in boroughs, and in Safer Neighbourhood Teams (SNTs) in particular, and less at the centre. There will be an Inspector-led team in each Local Police Area (cluster of wards); every ward will have a named Sergeant, a dedicated named PC (who will not be abstracted) and a dedicated PCSO; the remaining PCs and PCSOs will work across the Local Police Area according to need. I think this is much better than the original SNT model. While it is important that all wards have a dedicated presence, some wards have much higher crime than others and each ward experiences peaks and troughs so it makes sense to have some flexibility. And having bigger teams covering several wards will allow for coverage for much more of the day. One of the main problems with SNTs is that they often aren’t on duty in the evening when they’re really needed.
Third, by cutting back heavily on running costs – in particular, by reducing the number of buildings the Met occupies from 497 to about 300. In Croydon, that means the closure of Norbury, South Norwood, Addington and Kenley police stations. This is clearly a cause for concern but the police are proposing to open access points in other public service buildings, post offices, supermarkets etc. I have made it clear to the Mayor that there needs to be such an access point on Central Parade in New Addington and in South Norwood. Ultimately however this is about priorities. Whoever was in government, whoever was in City Hall, there would be less money available for the Met. What’s more important – police officers on the streets or buildings?
This Plan shifts resources within London to help places like Croydon that have traditionally been under-resourced, it shifts resources from the centre to the boroughs and it shift resources from management and running costs to the front-line. On all of these big issues, the Mayor has got it right.
Finally, one word of caution: this is only a draft plan. It is out to public consultation and it is really important that as many people from Croydon as possible respond supporting the new policing model and the allocation of resources across London. We have until 6th March to do so and you can find information about how to do so plus a copy of the full Plan here.
There’s also a public meeting on Tuesday 12th February at the Croydon Conference Centre in Surrey Street, which will be hosted by Stephen Greenhalgh, the Deputy Mayor for policing and crime, and Assistant Commissioner Simon Byrne. If you’d like to attend, you can register your interest here.
Borough Total recorded offences in 2011/12per fte officer in Sept 2012
Kingston upon Thames 38
Kensington & Chelsea 40
Hammersmith & Fulham 40
Tower Hamlets 41
Barking & Dagenham 41
Richmond upon Thames 42
Waltham Forest 45