Future of our Police Stations and front counters

Questions to the Mayor of London – answered on 11th May 2021.

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Photo of Tony Devenish Tony Devenish Conservative

After 5 years, communities across Kensington and Westminster tell me they still have no certainty on the long term future of our Police Stations and front counters. This drives a very real fear of crime across all three of my Boroughs. Why have these basic property decisions not been made long ago?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

The Commissioner and I have been clear since the publication of the Public Access Strategy that each borough will be served by a 24/7 front counter while the number of buildings across London are rationalised. When the Public Access Strategy was under consideration in 2016 and 2017, we were doing everything we could to mitigate the impact of the £850 million cuts the MPS had to find because of the Government’s austerity measures. The impact of these cuts was compounded by my predecessor’s failure to make the full use of his powers as Mayor to direct more funding from City Hall to the MPS, meaning the baseline funding for policing in London was much lower than it would have been if he had taken responsibility and increased the share of Council Tax raised for policing. In that context, tough decisions had to be made, prioritising money away from buildings and towards officer numbers and investing in the ways that Londoners want to be able to contact their police service in the digital age.

I welcome the Government’s belated decision to fund the recruitment of more police officers across England and Wales. The Commissioner and I believe that 6,000 should be allocated to London. So far we have been allocated just over 2,700 officers. The MPS’s new estate strategy is being formulated at present and will come forward for ratification later this year, but I must add the difficulties inherent in making long-term decisions on police buildings when future funding remains uncertain. The safety of Londoners is a top priority for me. While my latest budget gives the MPS some certainty on funding for the next four years, there has been no such assurance from the Government. I urge Assembly Members to support our efforts in lobbying the Government on this point.

Photo of Tony Devenish Tony Devenish Conservative

Mr Mayor, good morning. My colleague, Felicity Buchan MP, wrote to your Deputy Mayor [for Policing and Crime] on 24 February [2021] about our two police stations in North Kensington, Notting Hill and Royalty Studios. Although she has chased a response, no response whatsoever about North Kensington police stations. Can you confirm to me that you will chase that response before purdah, please?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Happy to give that assurance, Chair. Thanks for raising that, Tony, I will chase that up.

Photo of Tony Devenish Tony Devenish Conservative

Thank you. In terms of your earlier comments, Mr Mayor, you are the Police and Crime Commissioner for London. I just wanted to read you one of my local Member of Parliament’s (MP) tweets about a typical Friday night in London to you:

“At 6.56, police were called to a report of a man suffering a stab injury at a residential address in Croydon. At 7.15, four men, all in their 20s, received stab injuries in SW16. At 8.10, officers attended a residential address in SE25 where unfortunately a man had been stabbed to death. At 8.51, police heard about two men in their 30s attending a London hospital with stab injuries. At 9.12, police were called to an address in Croydon where a man was found in his 40s with a stab wound.”

Mr Mayor, this is not about politics. This is about people’s safety in London. Will you reconsider, particularly for places like North Kensington, where you are taking out the police station, as the fear of crime in our communities. It is three years this autumn since you announced police station closures. Nothing has really happened. It has gone at glacial pace. Residents are really concerned about this. Do you accept that?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Chair, we have had some remarkable questions today. Tony Devenish wins the prize for the most remarkable question. No mention of how the victims are doing and their families. I am hoping everybody is recovering. He is asking a question where he used examples of awful injuries sustained by Londoners in parts of London far away from the police stations he is referring to, which demonstrates the fact that it is a party political point rather than questioning the issue of policing our great city. What is really important is to recognise that:

“Londoners have reportedly told us that putting more officers on the street is their top priority, not keeping them hidden behind desks in offices which the public rarely set foot in.”

Those are not my words. They are the words of one [The Rt Hon] Boris Johnson [MP, former Mayor of London]. Boris Johnson closed down 76 front counters during his --

Photo of Tony Devenish Tony Devenish Conservative

Mr Mayor, you have been Mayor for five years now. If you continue going on about the history, if you were Prime Minister would you talk about [William] Gladstone [former Prime Minister] still? The reality is, you are the Mayor, you have had five years of failure on every subject. But, as we saw the terrible events last week of Sarah Everard, you have been a complete failure on law and order in this city. A complete failure. In 49 days’ time Londoners have the chance for a fresh start. I will leave it there, Chair, thank you.

Photo of Tony Devenish Tony Devenish Conservative

No, do not take the time up from Steve O’Connell [AM], he is the next Assembly Member on.

Photo of Navin Shah Navin Shah Labour

Assembly Member Devenish. Mr Mayor, go on.

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

It is question time. What you have heard in the last two minutes is a disgrace, connecting Sarah Everard with my record on policing, and I hope the Member would reflect on that, apologise and --

Photo of Tony Devenish Tony Devenish Conservative

Londoners will reflect, Mr Mayor, on your record.

Photo of Navin Shah Navin Shah Labour

Can you allow Mr Mayor to answer?

Photo of Navin Shah Navin Shah Labour

Mr Mayor, do you want to complete what you were saying?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Chair, I am absolutely speechless. Really, honestly, speechless.

Photo of Navin Shah Navin Shah Labour

All right. Thank you, Mr Mayor. We have a supplementary question on this from Assembly Member Desai.