Mayor launches consultation to reduce police front counters

14 July 2017
  • Met face another £400 million of cuts by 2021 as a result of Government’s failure to properly fund London’s police service
  • £10 million a year could be redirected from front counters poorly used by the public to protecting and supporting the frontline of policing – equivalent to the cost of 170 Police Constables
  • £170 million capital raised from closing these counters could be used to free up officers to spend more time on the frontline
  • Just 8 per cent of crimes were reported at police front counters in 2016, down from 22 per cent in 2006
  • 37 per cent of Londoners would rather report crime online – with a 350 per cent rise in online reporting since March
  • Proposals include closing police front counters, keeping one 24-hour police front counter in every borough

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan today (Friday 14 July) launched a full public consultation on plans to reduce the number of police front counters in London in order to put an additional £10 million – equivalent to the cost of 170 police constables - into frontline policing in London’s communities. The Mayor said Government cuts to the Metropolitan Police services had left him with ‘no choice’ but to take drastic action.

Just eight per cent of crimes were reported at police front counters in 2016, down from 22 per cent in 2006, and this number continues to fall. This compares to around 70 per cent of crimes reported on the phone. Three-quarters of those calls use the non-emergency 101 number, which was launched in 2011.

When Londoners have been asked how they would like to contact the police in the future, 37 per cent say they would prefer to use the website, social media and other digital methods. Today’s strategy has an improved digital offer at its heart, with a new online reporting service launched for testing in March. This pioneering move, introduced since Sadiq became Mayor, has delivered a 350 per cent rise in online reporting, with 1,200 reports a week made during its initial phase.

Maintaining front counters costs the Met police tens of thousands of pounds a year and is simply not affordable while budgets continue to face real-term government cuts. The Mayor said protecting the overall number of police officers in London has to be his top priority. Since 2010, the Met have had to find £600m of savings. A further £400m of savings are needed to be found by 2020. And the Government are yet to commit to dropping their proposed police funding formula, which could see the Met lose an estimated £174 million to £700 million extra every year.

At London’s busiest police front counter, Brixton, just seven crimes are reported on average each day, and 20 front counters across the capital receive one or no daily reports. While today’s proposals include maintaining a 24/7 front counter in every borough, the Mayor and Commissioner have been clear that they have been left with ‘no choice’ but to reduce the overall number of counters in London, and that the funds are needed to be spent on frontline officers who operate within the communities they serve. Closing poorly used front counters will raise £170 million capital and deliver £10 million savings each year, which could be used to free up officers to spend more time in their communities.

By the end of this year, every London ward will have two dedicated ward officers and one PCSO – who know and are known by the communities they serve. By next summer, these officers will have access to the most up-to-date mobile technology – allowing them to access and input information while on the beat that previously they could only do at a desk in a police station.

Under today’s proposals, these officers will be based at new, smaller hubs far closer to the ward and the community they patrol, making them more visible, more accessible and saving around £4.6 million per year. Over the coming months, they will begin holding new community sessions to provide a more flexible and convenient way for Londoners to engage with their local officers. These sessions will replace the system of Contact Points which have an average attendance of one or none.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan said: “The huge Government cuts to the Metropolitan Police Service have left us with no choice but to take drastic action to protect the frontline of policing.

“My top priority is keeping Londoners safe, and every pound saved by closing a front counter is a pound of savings that we do not have to find by reducing the frontline. By freeing up officers and moving them closer to their communities, they will be able to spend more time on the beat to tackle the issues that matter most to Londoners, such as knife crime, anti-social behaviour, hate crime and extremism, and domestic abuse.

“We will still be able to maintain a 24/7 front counter service in every borough and are improving the telephone and online services that Londoners value so highly.

“The Government urgently needs to properly fund the Met police so that they can do their job and keep Londoners safe.”

The strategy also details new methods to progress investigations online and on the telephone, and plans to increase the number of Safer Schools Officers. Later this year a new unit will significantly increase remote investigation capability, improving victim service and satisfaction.

The Met has also developed an extensive range of social media channels for engaging the public, with its main Twitter account - @metpoliceuk – recently hitting the 1 million follower mark.

The public consultation will last three months. To take part, please visit: www.london.gov.uk/public-access  

 

Notes to editors

  1. The Met had to make £600 million of savings between 2010 and 2015 after the national policing budget was cut by 20 per cent during this period. The number of police front counters in London dropped from 136 in 2013 to 73 today as the Met sold off under-used buildings to cut costs and raise money.
  2. A further £400 million of savings are needed by 20/21 due to real-term budget cuts.
  3. In a survey questioning Londoners on how they would ideally like to contact the police, 37 per cent of those asked said they would ideally use online reporting methods.
  4. By the end of this year, all of London’s 629 wards will have two dedicated ward officers and a PCSO, with additional dedicated officers allocated according to local need.
  5. By doubling the number of officers in every ward, there will be 1.258 dedicated ward officers working across the capital, with a clear commitment that they may only be used for other duties outside their ward for high-demand events such as Notting Hill Carnival and New Year’s Eve, and any exceptional circumstances the city faces.
  6. As well as being protected from abstraction, DWOs will not be used to backfill response teams, or perform other functions across boroughs.
  7. There are 113 Contact Points across London, which were designed to be open three times a week for an hour each time. A 2015 review showed they were extremely poorly used, with the majority having an average weekly attendance of just one visit or fewer, and 25 Contact Points had no visits at all.