Transparency and Policing in London

MQT on 2017-09-14
Session date: 
September 14, 2017
Question By: 
Caroline Pidgeon
Liberal Democrats
Asked Of: 
The Mayor



Answer for Transparency and Policing in London

Answer for Transparency and Policing in London

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  I would like to make clear that my first priority for local policing is protecting neighbourhood police officers.  That is why I am doubling the number of dedicated ward officers in every ward across London so that every single ward will have two dedicated police officers and one dedicated Police Community Support Officer (PCSO).  We also want to keep policing accessible and with one police station open to the public in each borough, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.


As I have said before, I would rather we were not having to close front counters and change access to policing in the capital.  However, this is an unfortunate direct consequence of the cuts imposed on us by the Government.  The last Conservative and Liberal Democrat Coalition Government started us down this road of massive cuts of policing in London by cutting £600 million from the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) since 2010.  The MPS now has to make a further £400 million of savings for its budget on top of this by 2021.  London’s police service relies on a vast majority of its funding from central Government and this leaves very little fat in the MPS’s budget to trim, which is forcing us to make extremely difficult decisions.


The proposals that the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) is consulting on jointly with the MPS will see around half of police station counters closed, releasing around £117 million in capital receipts to reinvest in policing and saving £10 million a year, equivalent to over 170 officers.  It follows that if these savings are not made from front counters which are generally little visited, then the number of officers policing our capital will need to be reduced further.


As far as the consultation is concerned, this is a genuine process of discussion with Londoners to engage with local communities about the changes and it is running until 6 October [2017].  My Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime, Sophie Linden, has been meeting with stakeholders to discuss the proposals and is continuing to do so, as well as attending public meetings.  People can also contribute their views in writing to MOPAC and by email or through a bespoke questionnaire and many people have already done so.  As I said, this is a genuine process, which was clear from the way we listened to some suggestions that you had about the way some of the questions in the consultation were worded and these have now been amended.


In addition, there are public consultation meetings being held in boroughs to discuss the proposed changes with the public.  So far 10 have taken place and they have been well attended.  There are many more planned.  These are locally led and have been advertised in the boroughs.  More information can also be found on the MOPAC website.


Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM:  Why has it taken you two months to publish consultation meetings in each borough about your closure programme?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Those are published locally and so it is a local decision.  You will be aware that the month before September is August when many people go on holiday and so the plan taken by local leaders was to have the meetings in September when people returned from holidays rather than August.


Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM:  Yes, but you would normally expect when you publish a plan to have a set of dates.  The first meeting at Kensington and Chelsea took place on 6 September with only 24 hours’ notice.  Planned borough meetings on 7 and 8 September were changed with two days’ notice.  Are you happy with the seemingly shambolic nature of your consultation?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  These are meetings organised locally.  They are locally organised and so, if you are criticising, for example, the Council in Kensington and Chelsea, I note that and I will pass that on to them.  If you are criticising other councils, I know the Borough Commanders and I will pass on your criticism.  You will appreciate that there are good reasons why they probably did not want to consult in August.


Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM:  Your office has said that the consultation meetings are led by the MPS and so they have not created any meaningful publicity, but it is your responsibility to oversee the consultation on your plan.  For all the disagreements I had with the previous Deputy Mayor for Policing, he personally attended consultations in every single borough over a two-month period in 2013 when, as I understand it, the current Deputy Mayor is planning to attend only a few.  How does this complete lack of public engagement fit with your claims, Mr Mayor, to be the most transparent Mayor in London’s history?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  That is a speech, not a question, and it is inaccurate.  The Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime has attended many public meetings.  There will be at least 32 meetings in every borough across London.  A number of members of the public have been responding via the website and via the questionnaire, and numbers have responded by coming to those public meetings.  It simply is inaccurate to suggest that the previous Deputy Mayor attended more meetings than the current Deputy Mayor.  I understand the reasons why you are embarrassed because of your responsibility for starting these cuts in 2010 and you are using the process to mask the substantive position.


The substantive point is this.  We are having to make these cuts because of decisions made by the previous Government and the current Government.  We are trying to involve as many members of the public as we can and we are carrying on doing so.  The consultation ends on 6 October [2017].  There is still time for people to get involved.  Our energy should be spent getting Londoners involved in those consultations.  The Safer Neighbourhood Boards are doing a good job advertising the meetings.  Ward panels are doing a good job.  They are using local newspapers and posters.  We should use all the means we can to get Londoners involved in the consultation.


Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM:  I understand the position you are in, Mr Mayor, but given the fact you published your document and you would normally publish your full suite of consultation meetings at that time, even if they were in September, to give people notice.  You cannot expect people to turn up with a couple of days’ notice.  Some of the meetings were then cancelled.  They were changing every day on the MOPAC website.  You own the police estate.  It is your responsibility.


Given, in my view, the failings of your office in dealing with this consultation, will you extend the length of the consultation to really make sure?  People in Croydon, for example, have to get their response in the day after their public meeting.  Give people a bit more time.  Have more time for these meetings and truly engage with Londoners.


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  I understand the smokescreen.  It has been used by politicians of all parties before.  The point is that if I had organised this centrally, can you imagine the criticism if we in City Hall imposed meetings in London, imposed a date, imposed a venue a month ago?  The Assembly Member would be the first to criticise us for not allowing local police and local politicians to be involved in the meetings.  Because we have asked Safer Neighbourhood Boards and we have asked ward panels and we have asked local leaders to organise the consultation, we are being criticised for not being control freaks.


The substantive point is this.  We are having to make big changes across policing in London including having to close front counters, including having to reduce police staff and make big changes, the consequence of decisions made in 2010 and decisions made in 2015.  We will make sure between now and 6 October that we try to involve as many Londoners as we can because these decisions affect all Londoners.


Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM:  That is disappointing.  I do not think you have a grip on what is going on there, Mr Mayor.