Borough Command Units

PCC on 2012-10-25
Session date: 
October 25, 2012
Question By: 
Navin Shah
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
Craig Mackey, Deputy Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis


I have a few questions about the borough command units. If I can start with the Deputy Commissioner, what is the strategy driving your proposals for merger of borough commands?


Answer for Borough Command Units

Answer for Borough Command Units

Answered By: 
Craig Mackey, Deputy Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis

Craig Mackey (Deputy Commissioner, Metropolitan Police Service): There are a number of strategic drives to look at that as an option. First and foremost, we have to save £500 million over the next three years, in terms of the work we have to do. Secondly, and it is a challenge I think for us in terms of looking forward, we looked in a meeting the other day with colleagues from the Greater London Authority (GLA) at a range of cost indicators around the Metropolitan Police Service. Sadly, on most of them, we were the outlier as high cost. One of those costs relates to the fact that we deliver services through a 32-unit model and while there are obvious boroughs that we all look at and say, 'I can absolutely see how we get the efficiencies of scale, how we can do things, how people can flex resources', there are boroughs, and particularly boroughs when you get down to 300-odd officers, that by any national comparator are very small boroughs. The ability and the cost-effectiveness of being able to deliver across that model is something we said, as part of the proposals around the budget, we need to look at and we need to consult on. So that is the strategic drive around it.

Navin Shah (AM): Is that how you come about this model of 25 borough command units?

Craig Mackey (Deputy Commissioner, Metropolitan Police Service): That is one of the options.

Navin Shah (AM): Who authorised these discussions?

Craig Mackey (Deputy Commissioner, Metropolitan Police Service): Sorry?

Navin Shah (AM): Who authorised the discussions?

Craig Mackey (Deputy Commissioner, Metropolitan Police Service): Who authorised the discussions? It is part of a consultation around the work we have been doing around the budget. We have talked to a number of people around a range of options and we will continue to talk around a range of options.

Navin Shah (AM): Can I further explore. The Mayor has very formally ruled out the option of merging borough commanders. Given that situation, how will you obtain the financial savings, which you have just been talking about?

Andrew Morley (Interim Chief Executive, Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime): Can I just be very clear about what the MOPAC position is and what the Mayor has said. The Mayor is very clear that there will be dedicated borough commanders. Underneath that, there are a number of options that we need to explore, but there will be dedicated identifiable borough commanders. That is what the Mayor has committed to.

Joanne McCartney (Chair): I asked the Mayor these questions and he seemed not to know that there was a consultation going on. I put it to him that he could have one borough commander looking after two boroughs, and he seemed to dismiss the idea that that was not acceptable. Is that your understanding?

Andrew Morley (Interim Chief Executive, Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime): The MOPAC position is that every borough will have a dedicated borough commander. There is a discussion around

Joanne McCartney (Chair): That would only be dealing with one borough?

Andrew Morley (Interim Chief Executive, Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime): There will be a dedicated borough commander that will have territorial responsibility for that borough. There is a question about

Joanne McCartney (Chair): But could a borough commander be responsible for two boroughs?

Andrew Morley (Interim Chief Executive, Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime): That is not the Mayor's position, no. The Mayor's position is that a borough commander will have responsibility for a borough. There is a question around rank, which we are still working through, which is a matter for the MPS. There is a question about what shared services across boroughs that borough commander may draw upon to support him or her in the discharge of their duties. However, the Mayor's position is very clear.

Joanne McCartney (Chair): Can I have a clear answer? A political answer from the Mayor. I thought he was telling me that you would have a separate person for each borough; you are telling me that is not right.

Andrew Morley (Interim Chief Executive, Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime): No, I am not saying that. I am absolutely saying that there will be a dedicated borough commander, an individual borough commander for each borough.

Joanne McCartney (Chair): Who will only have responsibility for one borough?

Andrew Morley (Interim Chief Executive, Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime): With responsibility for that borough. But, underneath that, they may draw upon shared services where it makes sense to do so to discharge that responsibility. That is the Mayor's position.

Can I just pick up on the consultation point; there is no formal consultation. It is the case that the MPS, quite sensibly in my view, as part of their developing propositions are engaging with a range of partners with what I would describe as straw men with a view to get some views to inform the proposals that they will put together. We currently have not had a formal proposition and we are, as part of the MOPAC Challenge next Tuesday, going to look at the proposals for the operational policing model in some detail. That is the place for it.

Joanne McCartney (Chair): Thank you.

Navin Shah (AM): I am not sure who to believe here, because certainly what I have heard for example from my borough commander, and I represent Harrow, very clearly is that there will be merger of borough commanders within Harrow and Barnet. Barnet's borough commander has similarly informed to the relevant Assembly Member that is what the proposal is. This is something which has been actively promoted. So quite frankly we need to know what is going on.

Craig Mackey (Deputy Commissioner, Metropolitan Police Service): Until we get to present the local policing model next Tuesday, there are no decisions made. We have to look at a range of options and we went through this in some detail with the Budget and Performance Committee the other day. The costing around, if we do something different around boroughs, at the low end it is about £10 million; at the top end it is about £12 million, if you went to a model that looked something like that. That is fine; we can ring-fence things and say we will not do that, but somewhere else we have to then go and find £11 million or £12 million. The reality, when you look at the size of the budget gap that the MPS faces over the next three years, you have to look at all options. I said previously here, before this Committee, there are no budget lines that we are not looking at. I absolutely understand where you are coming from in terms of it will set hares running, people will get different versions of the story as it goes through the organisation. I am absolutely alive to a point that has been raised by another Member where people will also brief against it. It is not right, it is not professional, but we are going through what will be a difficult process around budgets and people are going to fight their corners.

Navin Shah (AM): Can I ask MOPAC, what information had you sought about this issue from the Metropolitan Police Service before making public your stance, the stance that we have seen the Mayor and Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime promoting against the merger of borough commanders?

Andrew Morley (Interim Chief Executive, Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime): The Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime and the Mayor have set a requirement on the MPS, so they have effectively identified what for them are effectively red lines in terms of any restructure. The reason why the policing model is coming to the MOPAC Challenge next week is to absolutely give some visibility around that sort of decision. Nothing to date has been agreed. The Mayor's position is very clear and I will read from my brief, 'All boroughs will have a dedicated borough commander post.' That is the MOPAC position; the MPS are aware of that position. Within that they are having, as the Deputy Commissioner says, they have to explore a range of options. It is inevitable in an environment where there is significant change being discussed and considered that there will be some hares that are set running. Because of the very good links that borough commanders and others have, there will be stuff that they think may happen, but it has not been agreed. I can absolutely assure this Committee that no decisions have been made, that there will be a full discussion at the next MOPAC Challenge, which is open to the public, so that we can make sure that we have an opportunity to explore these issues. Maps that you have seen currently, which I know Members of the Committee have had, they are no more than MPS early thinking about what the future may look like. No propositions have been brought to MOPAC currently. We are involved in dialogue, of course we are, we are giving a sense of where we would like to see it go, but we have not made any decisions and we reserve any decisions until such time as we have had the proposition formally provided to us.

Navin Shah (AM): Sorry, Chair, if I can just I have a couple of further points. You know, whatever you say here, very clearly going by my borought example, and it is the same with Brent where thankfully there is no proposal for merging borough command. However, very, very clearly there is a huge amount of anxiety within the local community and opposition, if I may say so, given that we are being told we understand - and I mean Barnet and Harrow - that there is clearly the merger is being promoted. That is how it does seen at every board panel meeting or whatever I have attended. There is a clear consultation. Now how can this go on? I mean there is clearly a breakdown of communication here by the looks of it between MOPAC and MPS.

Craig Mackey (Deputy Commissioner, Metropolitan Police Service): I would probably not be where you have ended up with your conclusion. I absolutely understand there is anxiety out there. I have spoken to London council leaders and others who absolutely do not want to see those proposals, and I fully understand why. However, I go back to the fundamental strategy, we have to do some of these things to look at the potential possibilities, and if at the end of the day we all rule it out that is fine. But when something comes up further down the line and someone says, 'We do not want you to cut that unit', you run out of areas to go to save money. One of the big drivers that we talked through the other day in terms of trying to save money across the MPS, while trying to improve the number of constables and the operational service to the people of London, is to focus on our management ranks and management overheads, including chief officers, where we are very costly by all the comparators. We do have to look at some of those things.

We want to come to a position where when we get to do the work with the Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime we can get some consensus around all of this. I am sure that is ultimately achievable, but we will look at things, there will be hares set running. I am sure if you went and sat with the officers in Harrow now that is one of many of the hares that are running at the moment around change. If you sat with the police staff they would be worried about whether they have jobs in the future. There are lots of hares running at the moment; that is an inevitable part of major change.

Navin Shah (AM): Can I ask you two last questions, one is that what the decision was not to merge, where will you find that budget gap that you just mentioned about from?

Craig Mackey (Deputy Commissioner, Metropolitan Police Service): I do not know yet, but somewhere, as we go into year 2 and 3, there will be other areas we have to go and look at, absolutely. I genuinely could not answer that question for you.

Navin Shah (AM): The last question, who in the end will be signing off the decision whether to merge or not?

Andrew Morley (Interim Chief Executive, Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime): Ultimately it will be the Mayor and MOPAC, but I am very confident, on the basis of the conversations and discussions that are going on, that we will come to an agreement around how we will meet the funding gap and how we will maintain the requirements the Mayor has set around a dedicated borough commander. I am confident on that basis. We look forward to receiving the MPS proposals. I have to be clear, there has not been any formal MOPAC consultation because we have yet to receive any proposals. All the Mayor has done is made clear his requirement in terms of dedicated borough commanders, and it is on that basis that the MPS are doing their plans. I say again, within that, there may very well be, across boroughs, shared resource where it makes sense to do so that the borough commander may draw upon rather than having dedicated teams sitting underneath him or her for every single function. That is not for us to get into that level of detail. The Mayor's commitment is around a dedicated borough commander, not in terms of services that he or she may draw upon to discharge their territorial functions.