Neighbourhood Policing

MQT on 2019-01-17
Session date: 
January 17, 2019
Question By: 
Caroline Pidgeon
Liberal Democrats
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


What is your assessment of the current state of neighbourhood policing in London?


Answer for Neighbourhood Policing

Answer for Neighbourhood Policing

Answered By: 
The Mayor

I was elected on a commitment to restore real neighbourhood policing after years of neglect by my predecessor [Boris Johnson].  We have delivered on my promise, even in the face of huge financial pressures.  In 2010, each ward in London had one Sergeant, two Police Constables (PCs) and three Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) working together to tackle neighbourhood crime, but unfortunately neighbourhood policing has been cut to the bone in the eight years before I became Mayor.  By 2016, in most wards neighbourhood policing had been reduced to just one dedicated PC and one dedicated PCSO.  Since I became Mayor, we have worked to ensure that there is an increase to two dedicated PCs and one dedicated PCSO in every London ward.  These local officers, who know the community and understand the local issues, are there to help gather intelligence on local neighbourhood matters, prevent and detect crime and solve local problems.  In effect, they are our local eyes and ears and are vital to keeping our communities safe and helping to improve the public’s trust and confidence in our police service.


As part of the Police and Crime Plan, we have also ensured policing priorities are set at a local level, giving police teams the flexibility to respond and resolve what really matters to people in their community, whether it is burglary, theft from cars or assault.  I have tackled the causes of crime in communities across London.  We have built in a public health approach, setting up a Violence Reduction Unit, as well as a new £45 million Young Londoners Fund to provide young people with positive alternatives to crime and to help Londoners get out of criminal gangs and violence.


But there is no question that tackling crime across London has been made much harder by the huge Government cuts.  Neighbourhood officers do not work in isolation.  They are a vital part of a wider MPS and community team and the colleagues and the services they rely on are getting scarcer.  We are now facing a situation where police numbers in London have fallen to the lowest levels in 15 years, and eight years of austerity have decimated the very services that address the root causes of crime, from mental health services to youth clubs.  As I have said, cuts really do have a consequence, something even the Home Secretary [Rt Hon. Amber Rudd MP] has now admitted.  I have done what I can, increasing the police element of the council tax and diverting business rates into policing.  However, the reality is that unless the Government steps up and reverses its huge cuts to our police, we simply will not have the officers we need to keep our city safe.


Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM:  Thank you very much for your answer.  Your Police and Crime Plan promised to restore neighbourhood policing and ensure each ward - as you have just reiterated - has two dedicated PCs and one PCSO.  But time and time again I have heard concerns from local communities about the number of PCSOs on the ground.  In September [2018] I asked you for a breakdown of PCSOs and vacancies and I received no answer.  In November [2018] I repeated the question and again I received no answer.  We are now in the budget process and it is really vital that you are transparent with Londoners about what the reality is on the ground, not just your policy.  Can you confirm today that you are assured that there are at least two DWOs and one PCSO operational in every ward in London?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  There are fluctuations, not just in PCSO numbers, but also in DWOs across London because of vacancies and positions not filled.  For the PCSO numbers that I have got, the most recent number I have got is a month out of date, for obvious reasons.  For London, police officer numbers are 29,788.  That is a reduction, by the way, since May 2016 of 1,813, down 6%.  It was 31,601 in May 2016.  Police staff have also gone down, but the PCSOs you referred to, in May 2016 it was 1,566, in November 2018, 1,222.  That is a reduction of 344, a 22% change.  You will be aware one of the reasons for that is the massive cuts made by Government.  We are trying to manage the decline in police officer numbers by the increased monies we have been given from City Hall.


The point I think you are alluding to is some wards do not have their complement.  It was raised yesterday at the London Crime Prevention Board by the four council leaders as well.  The Deputy Commissioner, [Sir] Steve House [QPM], and the Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime, Sophie Linden, are looking into this issue.  In the south west in particular we have noticed some vacancies for DWOs, putting aside the PCSO point.  We are looking into this in relation to different parts of London.


Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM:  In Streatham there are only two PCSOs.  One of these is on long-term sick leave and so there is just one deployable PCSO to cover four wards.  Is that acceptable?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  No, it is not.  You will appreciate because of the cuts made over the last eight years, the numbers of PCSOs have gone down.  If I was to give you the difference between 2010 and 2019, the numbers would be even more stark in relation to the difference, a reduction of, I think, 60%-odd.  One of the challenges we have when there are vacancies is filling them as quickly as we can.  If somebody is on long-term sick ‑‑


Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM:  I appreciate that.


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  ‑‑ it is difficult to pay for a new person to join because then you have to keep your numbers at a certain level for funding reasons.  I would ask you and colleagues to please let us know when you know of these issues.  The Deputy Commissioner [Sir Stephen House QPM] is really keen to be kept abreast of particular issues in particular parts of London.


Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM:  Clearly the numbers you have given are striking, a 22% reduction over that recent six months.  There is clearly a recruitment issue here as well.  When will the next recruitment drive begin so you can fill these posts and also fulfil your mayoral promise?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Sorry, do you mean PCSOs or police officers?


Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM:  PCSOs.


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Let me be quite clear.  On PCSOs, the commitment from me was each ward will continue to have one PCSO.


Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM:  That is not the case and so ‑‑


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  There are 600 wards in London.  There are more than 600 PCSOs.  The issue is not one of the numbers, the issue is making sure each ward has one, and a dedicated PCSO.  Where there is long-term sickness or where there are vacancies, we need to make sure we address that issue.  That is why I am saying please let us know where there is an issue.  Because you can make PCSOs, frankly speaking, redundant and you cannot make police officers redundant, you can see the reason why those numbers are going down more starkly.  As far as police officers are concerned, you will be aware of the numbers we have, record lows, and we are doing what we can to try to fill the massive gap left by central Government.


Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM:  There is no recruitment drive planned?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  For PCSOs, no.