Front counters - Hampstead

Meeting: 
MQT on 2012-09-19
Session date: 
September 19, 2012
Reference: 
2012/2545
Question By: 
Joanne McCartney
Organisation: 
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
The Mayor

Question

In response to my question MQ2302/2012 you listed a number of police buildings and front counters, however, you failed to include Hampstead Police station as one of the front counters or police buildings earmarked for closure. What other buildings have you failed to include in this list?

Answer

Answer for Front counters - Hampstead

Answer for Front counters - Hampstead

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): In the list I provided to you there was no intention to conceal any decision about Hampstead Police Station, simply because I was certainly unaware of any proposal to close it myself and as far as I am aware no proposal to close it has been put either to me or to Stephen Greenhalgh (Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime).

Joanne McCartney (AM): Thank you. My question asks what other buildings have you not included in that list. We are hearing --

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I have not included this building, for instance, or many other buildings --

Joanne McCartney (AM): But police buildings, front counters in police stations.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I cannot give you an answer to that. All I can give you is a general state of the position which is that there is no secret list of police stations that are earmarked, in your phrase, for closure. What there is, is a desire to get the best possible value and use out of the 800 buildings in the police estate and where there are opportunities to get the police out and to be more visible, to have more front counters, to have more police locations in hospitals, in fire stations, council housing stakeholders, libraries, supermarkets, that kind of thing. Where we can do that rather than having some traditional great 'stalag' of a police station that is actually not as useful as it might be, then maybe we should consider it.

Joanne McCartney (AM): The reason I ask is because we are hearing rumours of other police stations and front counters that may be earmarked for closure. Again, in the consultation that the Metropolitan Police Service is doing at the moment, it talks about making changes to front counters and talks about public access points. When your Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime, Stephen Greenhalgh, was recently in front of Select Committee, he stated that there was the need to remove some police front counters. So, bearing that in mind, can I just ask, the previous commitment that if you closed a front counter you would open another of at least good quality, has that now gone?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): No. That is the key thing to say about Hampstead Police Station where I think there is some controversy. Whatever decision is taken there, there has to be adequate compensatory provision.

Joanne McCartney (AM): Because the consultation at the moment and the Deputy Mayor in front of our Police and Crime Committee talked about public access points and talked about replacing traditional front counters with, for example, a couple of hours at Tesco on a Friday morning. Do you really think that is a good enough service for Londoners?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Well, I do not know if that was what was proposed in respect of Hampstead.

Joanne McCartney (AM): No. In general.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): No, well, I do not know whether you are accurately reflecting what Stephen Greenhalgh said. I see someone is nodding there; perhaps it was what he said. Let us be absolutely clear, what we want is to have the maximum possible engagement with the public, to make the police as available to the public as possible. If that means having police counters in lots of public locations I think that is a good thing.

Joanne McCartney (AM): Can I ask that what this looks like, I think, to us and to the general public is that the danger, because there are great budget cuts that we accept are going to be very difficult, that this does not result in just a fire sale of police counters, and that at the end of the day we have a comprehensive service across London. Are you confident that will take place?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Yes. I think Stephen [Greenhalgh] has made it absolutely clear he will not consider any proposal for closure of Hampstead or any other police station; unless and until suitable alternative provision has been made.

Joanne McCartney (AM): Can I ask how do you judge the suitability? Because when we did question Stephen Greenhalgh at our Police and Crime Committee

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): It is about

Joanne McCartney (AM): I think it was Tony Arbour who said that

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): -- reassurance.

Joanne McCartney (AM): The experiment at his local Sainsbury's had been an absolute flop.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Well, there you go.

Joanne McCartney (AM): So, you know if you are going down this road you need to be evidence based and that is the concern that we have. That it is not going to be, that we are going to have police stations and front counters closing and they are never going to be put back and the alternatives are not good enough.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Well, the key test is, is existing provision actually very well used? Is it as good as it could be? Are the buildings themselves being put to the best possible use, in terms of the value of the asset? If not, how can you give a better service to Londoners? How can you have more opportunities for the public to see the police out there in the community and talk to them?

Joanne McCartney (AM): What account will you take of the public's view on this?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Public reassurance and public confident is paramount. But I think commonsensical members of the public can see that there may very well be cases where you have a big Victorian police station that is not always ideal. That possibly is not in an ideal location, and that is where there is scope for improvement. Where you could certainly dispose of the asset and use the proceeds to improve policing in London.

Joanne McCartney (AM): So will you commit to doing a full public consultation on this?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Well, you know, I do not know quite what you mean by a full public consultation. But what I can say is

Joanne McCartney (AM): Well, you publish the plans for each borough and you invite the public to comment on them.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Of course.

Joanne McCartney (AM): Thank you.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Any proposals that we make on this will be, by their very nature, extremely controversial. There will be a great deal of public outcry. There will be local politicians who enviably want to represent the feelings of their constituents and we will take account of what people say. You have to go forward with plans that are, in the end, for the benefit not just of Londoners but will also help to bring crime down.

Darren Johnson (Chair): Thank you. Assembly Member Dismore.