Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Policing in Broken Barnet: Boris' cuts - time to speak out

Remember when the Conservative Party was the party of law and order, and the police were the thin blue line against the enemy within, and all that? That was a long time ago, wasn't it?

These days our Tory masters, with their retro upper class public school disdain, look on the police themselves as the enemy without, and are seemingly trying to undermine their role wherever possible. 

In London, the capital city, where there can be no greater need for the protection of properly resourced emergency services, we are facing an unprecedented threat to levels of provision, and perhaps most acutely, here in Barnet anyway, in terms of our policing.

Incredibly, we have been told that all but one police station here in Broken Barnet faces closure. The latest news is that some compromise may be reached on retaining some limited access at Golders Green station, but this is pititfully inadequate. 

Your Labour member on the London Assembly, Andrew Dismore, is trying to rally opposition to these reckless plans, and has issued the following press release:

Boris Johnson devastates Barnet’s Police Service

Andrew Dismore, Labour London Assembly member for Barnet and Camden, has today learned of Conservative London Mayor Boris Johnson’s plans for cuts to the Metropolitan Police.

Mr Dismore said:

“These plans, as a result of the decisions of the Mayor and the Conservative led Coalition Government, are appalling news not just for our local police service, but for local residents and businesses who depend on them, too.

The police stations at Barnet and Whetstone are to close their doors to the public completely, meaning there will be no police station open to public access in the east of the borough at all.

In the south, I am pleased that our campaign to save Golders Green Police Station from complete closure has been successful, but it will only be open  for shorter hours, probably just 40 hours per week.

The only station open round the clock will be Colindale in the west of the borough, which is not readily accessible to thousands of people who live in the east of Barnet in particular, but also to many who live in the south too.

The suggested replacement – 4 hours per week stalls in supermarkets, coffee shops or post offices - is not in any way a suitable alternative, for those who wish to discuss confidential matters or report crime face to face to a police officer.

But the bad news does not end there. Although the Mayor is trumpeting an increase in police numbers, in fact there is actually a cut over the life of this Coalition Government.

When Labour left office in May 2010, Barnet had a total of 595 police officers. By 2015, the time of the next election, the number will be just 564- that’s a cut of 34 officers: and it will take till then to build up to that figure, so for most of the next 2 years we will have even fewer than that.

Barnet’s Safer Neighbourhood Teams had, in total, 189 officers, sergeants and PCSOs in May 2010. By 2015, the total will be only 135, that’s a cut of 54 officers.

These are not my figures: they are the official figures from answers to previous questions at Mayor’s Question Time and from today’s announcements.

So much for the often repeated pledge during the 2010 General Election of the Conservative MP for Hendon, who promised more police if people voted for him: he has broken his word and we will actually see far fewer officers on the beat than he inherited from Labour.

Boris Johnson justifies his cuts by his wish to reduce the Council Tax: but the Council Tax next year will go down by just 1p a day for the average Band D home. I think most residents would prefer to see no cuts in the police (and the fire service, which cuts are also on the way), than save just 1p a day.

This Mayor and Government are so out of touch they do not care about the safety of the public, which is the first duty of any administration. 

At a time when we are all concerned about levels of crime, especially burglary which has gone through the roof in Barnet, it is time for the Mayor to listen and to withdraw these plans.

But the only consultation with the public is to be a one hour meeting with the Deputy Mayor for Policing next Monday 14th January at 6pm at the Town Hall.

That is woefully inadequate, so I am holding my own meeting with other London Assembly members from our Police Committee and the Barnet Labour Councillors immediately afterwards at the Town Hall, so residents can properly have their say.”

Laughably, in a panic over the political fall out to this assault on our policing levels in Barnet, in December, our woefully inept Tory council 'leader' Richard Cornelius decided to launch the following petition, on the council's website:

"Petition to: call on the Metropolitan Police not to close the counters at Whetstone and Golders Green Police Stations unless alternative provision is available."

Yes, a petition, by the Tory leader of Barnet Council, blaming the police for the proposed closures which are, erm, actually the responsibility of the Tory Mayor, Boris Johnson.

Why, Councillor Cornelius, have you targeted the police themselves for this slashing of a vital service, as a direct result of Conservative policy, rather than point the finger where it clearly should be pointed - at your chum in City Hall? 

If Boris' plans go ahead, Chipping Barnet and Whetstone police stations will close. Only one station in the whole borough will remain, at Colindale, the borough police centre, with some very limited access, under protest, apparently now grudgingly to be made available at Golders Green, no doubt after the idiotic plans to hold contact sessions on Saturdays in an area inhabited by the country's largest Jewish community.

Boris shows his pre election support for a station he would now like to see closed. Can't identify the other figure.

Just imagine - if, say, someone is arrested in North Finchley for, oh, maybe a charge of common assault: it will no longer be possible to take them quickly to a local police station, question them, and then perhaps extend the hospitality of a nearby custody suite. Already there is often a severe strain on the boroughwide police service caused by the length of time and number of officers it takes to process those who have to be taken into custody. This can only get worse. More importantly, the victim of any such crime will have to traipse across the borough to find somewhere to report the crime. And how will such a drastic reduction in stations affect the deployment of officers, and the length of response time to reported incidents?

As usual, the least advantaged and most vulnerable residents of this borough, those without transport, will be left without easy access to a police station, and the gulf between local police and the community they are supposed to represent will be even greater.

A plastic policeman making occasional appearances in a supermarket as a replacement to a professionally run police station is an insult to the residents and taxpayers of this borough.

We need our policing to be visible, accountable, and in touch with the communities they protect, but in the appropriate environment - not sat next to the fish counter in Tescos.

The architect of these proposals, our Tory Mayor, Boris Johnson, only shows his face in Barnet when an election is looming, but Stephen Greenhalgh, the deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime, will be gracing the borough with his presence for an hour's audience, next week, on January 14th, at 6pm, Hendon Town Hall. 

Come along and tell him what you think of the proposed cuts: to do so you must first register, as they do not want many people to attend, and of course registration will make it as difficult as possible - here is the link for the event:
Updated Thursday:

For further information about the consultation process, or what passes for it, in regard to the policing proposals, please use this link, and make your views count (especially if you are a Barnet Tory councillor worrying about the certain impact of the station closures on your already minimal chances of being re-elected): 


Mrs Angry said...

One might also ask where on earth, in future, SO15 officers from Scotland Yard will be able to find a spare interview room when interrogating lady cafe owners from North Finchley, regarding their anti parking posters, if all our police stations are closed?

Mrs Angry said...

Note to self: stop leaving comments on your own blog, and go to bed.

Jaybird said...

You can comment online here