The future of the Metropolitan Police Service (Supplementary) [2]

Session date: 
July 6, 2017
Question By: 
Gareth Bacon
Organisation: 
GLA Conservatives
Asked Of: 
The Mayor

Question

Gareth Bacon AM:  I want to talk to you about police front counters.  We have talked about this to a degree before, but I am interested really in facts.  There are 73 at the moment.  All things being equal and accepting the £400 million of savings, if that stays on the table, how many front counters are you going to need to close?

Answer

Answer for The future of the Metropolitan Police Service (Supplementary) [2]

Answer for The future of the Metropolitan Police Service (Supplementary) [2]

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  It could be as many as half.  You will be aware that my Police and Crime Plan that I published in March [2017] talked about the need to consult the public about the issue of access to the MPS including police buildings.  We were due to consult in May but then the Prime Minister called an election in April and so, because of purdah, we put off the consultation.

 

You will be aware because you criticised me that during the election campaign I said to Londoners that, if it is the case that the Government proceeds with the future cuts, it could mean up to half the police station front counters closing down.  MOPAC is working on a consultation plan, but we are talking about up to half potentially closing down, subject to consultation.

 

Gareth Bacon AM:  I will come on to that in a moment.  I did criticise you but not about the front counters.  It was more about the other stuff, which we have already done and so do not need to do again.

 

Half of 73, of course, does not really go.  There has been mention - and it was in the previous Police and Crime Plan - about one 24/7 police station per borough.  We would have 32 of those, which would leave a little bit of leeway.  Is that what you are looking to go down to or would there be a few left over?

 

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  All of this is subject to consultation but at the last Mayor’s Question Time, as you will be aware, I talked about the possibility of us going down as far as each borough having only one 24-hour, seven-day-a-week police station front counter and probably, I suspect, the busier boroughs may have need of an additional one.  I have given you a flavour of the scale of the consequence of the cuts envisaged, but all of this is subject to consultation.  I want to be as transparent as I can.

 

Gareth Bacon AM:  Are the 73 that are open now all 24/7?

 

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  I am not sure.

 

Gareth Bacon AM:  Deputy Commissioner?

 

Craig Mackey QPM (Deputy Commissioner, Metropolitan Police Service):  No, they are not.

 

Gareth Bacon AM:  How many are?

 

Craig Mackey QPM (Deputy Commissioner, Metropolitan Police Service):  Gosh.  I would be guessing off the top of my head.  I do not have that data with me, but I am more than happy to provide it.  Predominantly, the footfall is lowest at those where the opening hours are shortest.

 

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  And they are not all police stations.

 

Craig Mackey QPM (Deputy Commissioner, Metropolitan Police Service):  No.

 

Gareth Bacon AM:  Yes, I understand that, Mr Mayor.  Do the opening hours of those that are not 24/7 vary or are they all the same?

 

Craig Mackey QPM (Deputy Commissioner, Metropolitan Police Service):  No, they do vary.  Some of it is about local need.

 

It is important on this one - and I will try to steer a path down the middle, if I can, on this one - to be really careful with our language.  When we talk about ‘police stations’, Londoners assume that that mean the police are leaving.  We are absolutely clear that that is not what we are talking about.  We are talking about how you access a service.  It is worth remembering that most people access our service through a telephone.  The vast majority of requirement for our service is via telephone.  Footfall has continued to drop, even at our 24/7 front counters.

 

Even with all of this, at some point - and I have the great joy that I do not have to be elected - I would be talking to elected politicians to say, “You have some choices to make about whether you keep some of these services.  My professional advice to you on some of these would be not to keep them”.  As we have moved into the digital age, particularly if we look at London’s demographic, London is growing as a very young city.  Young Londoners do not walk into police stations to demand service.  If it is not an app or if it is not net-based, then they do not think the service exists.  We are trying to cater for a service for the future in terms of some of those sorts of things.

 

I would just urge Assembly Members if they can to be very careful about the use of ‘police stations’ and ‘services’ and ‘front counters’ because I would not want to say to Londoners, “You are losing all your police stations and therefore you have no police”.  In fact, it is quite the opposite.

 

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Just a ten-second reassurance on that, Assembly Member Bacon: investing online plus more neighbourhood policing means hopefully there are more ways for the public to reach the police.

 

Gareth Bacon AM:  That was very reassuring and you agree with that, Mr Mayor?

 

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Yes, reassuring Londoners is very important.  We do not want Londoners to think that the police are vacating the pitch.

 

Gareth Bacon AM:  That is good.  Pretty much what you said, Mr Mackey, was in the previous Police and Crime Plan where front counters were discussed quite openly and frankly.  That is useful because reassuring Londoners, particularly now, is a very good thing to do.

 

Just on the consultation, Mr Mayor, when is that going to launch?

 

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  It was due to launch in May and I am told it is imminent.  MOPAC will know the exact date.  It will be very soon.

 

Gareth Bacon AM:  This week?  Next week?

 

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  I would be surprised if it is this week bearing in mind it is Thursday, but I would not be surprised if it was next week or the week after.

 

Gareth Bacon AM:  Are you able to offer a reassurance now that the consultation will have a bearing on which - let us say ‘counters’ rather than ‘police stations’ - will be closed at the end of the process?

 

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  I have not read the iteration of the consultation but I want to give that reassurance, yes.  The aspiration, subject to funding and the response to the consultation, is for each borough to have one 24/7 presence.  The advice I have received - and I have not seen the consultation - is that there are some boroughs that need more than one, for obvious reasons.  You can imagine the ones in, I suspect, central London or high-crime areas.

 

Gareth Bacon AM:  There is a report that has found its way into the public domain from MOPAC from the meeting this week, which has a timeline at the back of it.  It indicates that the draft strategy will be launched but it says, “3 July TBC”.  That would be this week and, therefore, imminent.  I will accept that.  At the end it says, “Publication early October and front counters closed late October”.  It does not say how many, which is why it is reassuring to hear that the consultation could have some impact on that.  However, all things being equal with the £400 million, you would anticipate at least 35 of those closing?

 

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  I have not seen that document but those timelines sound right.  To make the savings we want to make, the figure you have said sounds about right as well.

 

Gareth Bacon AM:  Have you seen this document, Mr Mackey?

 

Craig Mackey QPM (Deputy Commissioner, Metropolitan Police Service):  I have not seen the MOPAC version.  We have been working on this.  I spoke to Members on the P&C before about the second phase of the estate strategy.  We are targeting between £50 million and £70 million out of the second stage of the estate strategy and it goes back to the points the Mayor and others have made earlier on.  If we do not take it from that part of it, the other 78% is people.  I know there is a lot of uncertainty at the moment, but we have a £3.2 billion budget and we are nine months away from having to deliver it.  We have to start doing things and planning things.  Even if at the end of the day they do not come to fruition, we have to plan them and start to work them through.

 

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Can I just say a very short point on this?  It is linked to the question raised by Assembly Member O’Connell.  If it is the case that we, for very good reasons, delay the basic command units and restructuring them, then it makes the need to do the police station front counters even more urgent.

 

Craig Mackey QPM (Deputy Commissioner, Metropolitan Police Service):  Absolutely.  I know it is frustrating to people, but these choices and these difficult decisions are all interlinked.  It is like one of those children’s games.  If you slow one of these things down, you immediately have to move the other one forward because they have to balance to deliver a budget at the end of the day.

 

Gareth Bacon AM:  That is totally understood.  From my perspective, it is not police buildings that keep people safe.  It is police officers.  The priority has to be reflected and you are reflecting it and that is fine.

 

Can I make one final plea, then?  When we do go to consultation, people - you have correctly put your finger on it, Mr Mackey - have interchangeably used the terms ‘counters’ and ‘stations’.  Can we do something around the language in terms of what we put out there?

 

Craig Mackey QPM (Deputy Commissioner, Metropolitan Police Service):  Yes.

 

Gareth Bacon AM:  Otherwise, we are frightening people needlessly.

 

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  That is very fair.

 

Gareth Bacon AM:  Thank you, Madam Chair.

 

Jennette Arnold OBE AM (Chair):  Thank you.  Assembly Member Pidgeon?