Meeting London’s Current and Future Policing Needs (Supplementary) [4]

Session date: 
December 9, 2014
Question By: 
Murad Qureshi
Organisation: 
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
Boris Johnson (Mayor of London) & Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe (Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis)

Question

Could I ask a few questions now on front desks and contact points?  We have seen the closure of three police stations in the residential part of Westminster, that is, north of Oxford Street.  That is, the Howe Road in Paddington, Marylebone Station in Seymour Street and St John’s Wood Police Station in New Court Road.  Why has there been no front desk replacements, Mr Mayor?  Could I ask the Commissioner, has the MPS forgotten that people actually live in Westminster?

Answer

Answer for Meeting London’s Current and Future Policing Needs (Supplementary) [4]

Answer for Meeting London’s Current and Future Policing Needs (Supplementary) [4]

Answered By: 
Boris Johnson (Mayor of London) & Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe (Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis)

I do not want to comment in detail on what provision there is because I have not looked at what has been put in place of the police stations that you mentioned, Murad, but the general principle, as you know, is that we are moving with the times.  The times require that members of the public who are victims of crime, who want a police officer to come to them, will be attended by a police officer.  That is why you have the figure, a huge number, of calls that the MPS fields every year and a huge number of personal visits.  That was the pledge made by the Commissioner.  I think it was entirely right to do that.  That is the way forward.  That, by the way, reflects people’s habits, it reflects the needs of Londoners today.  Fewer and fewer have been visiting police stations in the old fashioned way and it made sense to go ahead with that reform.  By the way, I think that if you are seriously going to argue that we should go back and spend a fortune keeping those police stations open then you need to explain exactly how the funds would be raised to compensate us for the loss of revenue.

 

Murad Qureshi AM:  Mr Mayor, that has not been suggested.  I am just reminding you that you made a pledge that no front counter would be closed without equivalent or better provision being found.

 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  As I said, I cannot give you the particular about the arrangements in those neighbourhoods because I have not had notice of that particular question.

 

Murad Qureshi AM:  They are very distinct neighbourhoods, believe you me.

 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  I would be very happy to supply whatever details to you.

 

Murad Qureshi AM:  Commissioner, the MPS, has it forgotten the residents of the residential parts of Westminster?

 

Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe QPM (Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis):  I will not answer that question directly, because I am not sure I know how to.  You know that Westminster is fairly unique, if not unique, as a borough.  We are always trying to balance two things, well probably three things in Westminster.  On one side we have the central Government, we have the West End and then we have the people who live there.  That is their home, they live in those two areas.  Not too many in the former area but quite a lot, obviously as you know, in the north of the borough.  It is always a challenge as to how we get that balance right and there is no sort of answer to that.  We are also trying to provide a service as a contact point for all the tourists and all those people who visit, as well as the people who live there.  Trying to strike that balance is difficult.  With a bit more notice probably I could have given you a better answer with where we are in terms of finding the right contact point for north Westminster.  If you feel it is taking too long then I am very happy to take that away and look at it.

 

Murad Qureshi AM:  Commissioner, I do not disagree with you about the City of Westminster and policing there.  It is more like Manhattan than any other London borough.  That has always been a premise I have worked on.  Given you have mentioned contact points, both myself and the local MP, Karen Buck, have been raising issues about the contact points.  They seem to be limping along and I think the MPS’s own review of contact points say they are not fit for purpose and they do not offer value for money and their mandatory opening times fail to take into account local demand and demographics.

 

Do you think it is unreasonable for the residents of Westminster to expect the equivalent or better service that you promised, Mayor?

 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  To the best of my knowledge they are getting a better service, in the sense that they are being attended to when they are victims of a crime or when they wish to make contact with the police they are being attended directly, and that is the way forward.

 

Murad Qureshi AM:  Mr Mayor, you can say that but I can give you instances where people have been burgled and whereas before they have gone to a local police station they have ended up going to the other end of the borough in Belgravia to pursue their insurance claims.  I am not sure that is offering the residential parts of Westminster the service that they may get in other parts of town.  That is the premise of my question.  Can I also move on to --

 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  If you have particular evidence of people having to travel a great distance to get to police station, obviously we will look at that.  As I said in my earlier answer, it is difficult for me to describe the kind of provision that people have in that part of the city off the top of my head but we would be more than happy to come back with greater detail.

 

Murad Qureshi AM:  Can I finally ask: you once said you wanted “bobbies not buildings” and, as I have mentioned earlier, you have sold all the buildings in Westminster and we have also seen fewer police officers, to the extent of --

 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  That is simply not true.

 

Murad Qureshi AM:  We have seen since May 2010 a quarter of the police force reduced in the city.  Is the situation likely to get any better or worse, Mr Mayor?

 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  The situation has been extraordinary, in the sense that London, as Bernard said earlier on, has totally bucked the trend of every other police force around the country in that we have kept the numbers high.

 

Murad Qureshi AM:  That is the same with Western Europe, Mr Mayor.

 

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Neighbourhood Teams - we have put another 2,600 out into neighbourhoods by next year.  They will be going out by 2015.  Two thousand officers have been taken from the back office into the frontline.  That is what I think Londoners expect to see.  You have heard what Bernard has had to say about reforming the local policing model.  If there are ways we can improve the Safer Neighbourhoods Teams, the balance, the mix, the configuration then obviously we will do that.  The proof of the pudding is in the eating.  The seven key neighbourhood crime types that we identified at MOPAC, you are seeing them come down.

 

Murad Qureshi AM:  I am finished, Mr Chairman, but we will just see what he does with Paddington Green Police Station.