06 October 2017

Vassall councillors call for government rethink on local police cuts

Vassall councillors have criticised government plans to cut  £1 billion from London's police during the course of this decade that could see eight local police stations close in the borough.

During the summer Lambeth Labour launched a petition, which has been signed by 1,000 residents, calling for Ministers to rethink their planned cuts. As Vassall View reported here, the changes could leave Brixton station as the only fully functioning police station in the borough with a public counter service.

In their submission to the consultation looking at the future of policing in the capital, Vassall councillors Annie Gallop, Jacqui Dyer and Paul Gadsby, said:
For context, we do believe that the government's staggering cuts to the Met's police budget will have a detrimental affect on our community. The north of Lambeth and Brixton, where our ward sits, is one with a unique set of pressures facing it. The area includes several town centre areas with extremely busy night time economies, diverse communities and overall a rising population. As such our community is one that needs a responsive, well equipped police force that cannot only address crime issues that emerge, but is public facing with access points and an approach that allows the community to speak directly with their local officers. We are very lucky in Vassall to have an excellent safer neighbourhood team and police officers assigned to the ward, but we are concerned that the government's £1 billion cut over the course of this decade is an attempt effectively to protect the public on the cheap. 

On the issue of police station closures being looked at by the MOPAC report, in our view removing the front counters that service the north of our borough will create a significant gap in provision. We strongly urge MOPAC to consider the possibility of a northern front counter to service the residents and visitors in this busy, crowded area which has significantly above average crime rates. Kennington police station we would suggest is the ideal location for this kind of service to continue.   We are concerned that if services at the station are reduced this will increase pressure on Brixton police station which is near our ward and which already appears to be operating under a degree of operational stress caused by rising public demand. We have been out campaigning on this issue in our ward for the past few months and believe the views we have outlined above reflect those re-iterated to us on the doorstep. 

A one size fits all approach, where every London borough has just one public counter, is not workable or reasonable in our view. As our cabinet member for community safety has confirmed to us, serious youth violence has increased by nearly 20% and knife crime by over 50% in Lambeth. Giving identical resources to one of London’s highest crime areas and outer London boroughs with far lower crime rates doesn’t make sense in our view. Resources and access should be based on community need.

We appreciate the pressure the Mayor is being placed under by backhanded Conservative cuts and while we agree with the principle of the MOPAC proposals – officers are more important than buildings, something which we do feel many in the community share - we do feel the current strategy needs to be looked at again. It risks alienating our communities, removing the neighbourhood presence that works so well, and jeopardising the excellent local work done by the police to engage communities across our borough.