Mayor needs to explain his thinking behind police station closure plans
Published: Friday 22nd September 17
Councillors in Wandsworth are calling on London Mayor Sadiq Khan to explain to local people why the borough’s only 24 hour police station is earmarked for closure.
The mayor recently launched a consultation on his plans to close dozens of police stations and front office counters across the capital including the borough’s main one at Lavender Hill.
The Mayor’s proposals for Wandsworth include:
- The closure of Lavender Hill police station to the public.
- The removal of a daytime front counter at Wandsworth police station which members of the public can currently visit to report crimes or seek assistance.
- An end to the use of both Lavender Hill and Tooting police stations as bases for their respective area’s safer neighbourhoods teams.
- The ending of informal police contact sessions at a number of community locations including the Asda Supermarket at Roehampton, Battersea’s York Gardens library, St Mary’s Church café in Putney and the small police office in Nine Elms.
- The future sale of both Lavender Hill and Tooting police stations along with another Met Police site in Ponton Road, Battersea.
According to the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (Mopac) Londoners would be expected to contact the Met over the phone or online via the internet using web-based platforms or social media.
Community Services spokesman Cllr Jonathan cook said: “There is very little public awareness around these plans and so far there has been virtually no attempt by the Mayor to explain the detailed thinking behind these changes.
“Lavender Hill is the only 24 hour police station that serves Wandsworth’s 320,000 residents. It is the only one that people can go to at any time of the day or night if they need police assistance.
“If these plans proceed there is a real danger the police will become detached and remote from the communities they serve. It is important that officers are able to maintain a face-to-face dialogue with Londoners, especially when they rely so heavily on people passing on information about their concerns.
“The suggestion from his office that people should use the internet to fill in forms is going to be extremely challenging for older residents and the vulnerable or those whose first language is not English.
“And given the growing threats from cyber criminals and hackers there is an obvious risk in asking people to post sensitive information online.
“The Mayor will of course say he is only reacting to funding pressures. However I am not convinced that closing police stations is the answer. There are other efficiencies that could and should be explored before these police stations are lost to the public forever, especially when the Mayor has been unable to give us any information at all about what might replace them.
The proposals on police station closures is the latest Mayoral decision to affect crime prevention and reduction strategies in Wandsworth.
In April the Mayor announced he was to cut funding for crime prevention measures in the borough by 51 per cent from April 2018 onwards.
And in what Cllr Cook describes as “yet another blow to local policing”, the Mayor is also planning to reduce the number of London borough police commanders, which critics argue will make senior police officers more remote and make it harder for them to stay on top of local issues.
Currently Wandsworth, along with all of London’s 32 boroughs, has a chief superintendent in charge of all local policing matters and is able to respond quickly to community concerns.
Under the Mayor’s new system, this officer will be split four ways and shared between Wandsworth, Merton, Kingston and Richmond.
None of London’s other boroughs are being formed into a cluster of four. Across the capital only two or three boroughs are being joined together, prompting questions as to why Wandsworth and its three neighbours are being treated differently.
Cllr Cook added: “Wandsworth has an enviable record as inner London’s safest borough, but that success has not been achieved by accident. It is the result of very hard work across all the agencies and in large part is a reflection of the work we have done to prevent crime because we have been able to maintain a close dialogue with our borough commander to make sure they understand local priorities and local concerns.
“A 51 per cent cut in crime prevention funding and the sharing of a commander with three other boroughs is simply not a credible proposal. And closing the last remaining 24 hour police station in the borough is a step too far that risks undoing all the good work that’s been done in recent years.”
The Mayor’s consultation on his police station proposals ends on October 6.