Helen's response to local police station closures

I have written to the Deputy Mayor for Policing asking her to retain the current open access police stations in Lambeth and Southwark, as well as the local police bases used by my constituents which are due to close under recent proposals.

You can read my full letter below: 

 

I am writing on behalf of my constituents to voice my opposition to MOPAC’s proposal to close police stations in Lambeth and Southwark.  My constituency of Dulwich and West Norwood comprises five wards in Lambeth and three wards in Southwark.  MOPAC proposes to close every police station front counter in Lambeth except Brixton, and every police station front counter in Southwark except Walworth.

I fully recognise the impossible situation facing the Metropolitan Police following the decision of both the Coalition government and the current Conservative government to cut £1bn from its budget.  The government is doing this at a time when the pressures on the Met arising from an increased terror threat, the rise in violent crime including knife and gun crime, the growth of online crime and the growth in disclosures of child abuse which occurred in the past as a consequence of the national inquiry, have never been greater.  In persisting with these cuts, I have no doubt that the government is putting the safety of communities in London at risk. 

While I accept the principle that officer numbers are more important than buildings, I am concerned that the closure of further police front counter services in Lambeth and Southwark will have damaging consequences for the relationship between the police and our communities, the accessibility of the police and the ability of the police to work efficiently and effectively.

My constituency has been disproportionately affected by previous rounds of police station closures, which have resulted in the loss of East Dulwich police station within the constituency, and Forest Hill, Penge and Camberwell police stations which are outside the constituency but also served my constituents.  Gipsy Hill police station has also reduced from a fully functioning front counter police station to an operational base which is not open to the public.  We have also seen the network of police Safer Neighbourhood Team offices being closed and mothballed, and this has had a direct impact on neighbourhood policing in my constituency, with officers now beginning and ending their shifts at police stations which are in some cases as much as an hour’s travel time away from the ward that they serve.

Residents on the Southwark side of my constituency now have to travel to Peckham or Walworth to access a front counter police service, and while Brixton police station is in my constituency, it is increasingly so busy that it is becoming very difficult for residents to access services at the front desk in a meaningful way.

The Contact Point services which were initiated by the previous Mayor have entirely failed to provide a meaningful point of access between the police and members of the public.

While I am obviously relieved that there are no plans to close Brixton police station, I am very concerned about the capacity issues which will stem from Brixton becoming the only police station in Lambeth.  I have visited Brixton police station on many occasions since I was first elected in 2015 – it is currently full to capacity.  There is no additional space to accommodate further officers in a comfortable and efficient working environment.  The custody suite, while well equipped, is also under considerable strain from the numbers of people it has to accommodate.  Police officers work in teams, and their job is stressful, difficult and often dangerous.  They need a working environment which is comfortable, where they can access the computer equipment they need to undertake paperwork efficiently, where they can store their kit, and where during long and busy shifts they can access space for breaks and refreshments.  I am concerned that there is simply not the capacity to provide such a working environment at Brixton for all or most of the officers in Lambeth, and that a failure to do so will undermine the motivation and morale of staff, and the relationship they have with our communities.

My constituents in Southwark, already feel that the police have largely withdrawn from our area.  The successive closures of police stations, combined with the decimation of neighbourhood policing under the previous Mayor and the very serious problems with the 101 service mean that in the face of rising robbery, burglary and aggressive anti-social behaviour, many of my constituents increasingly feel that the police are not able to provide the response that they need.  Further police station closures can only exacerbate this situation.

 Alongside my Parliamentary colleagues who represent other parts of Lambeth and Southwark, the Leaders of both Councils and Dulwich and West Norwood Labour councillors, I support the Mayor in calling for the government to reverse the cuts to the Metropolitan Police budget, and to equip our police to address the very serious crime and safety challenges London current faces.  In the short term, I ask you to consider again the impact that the proposed closures will have on the relationship between the police and our communities in Lambeth and Southwark and on the ability of the police to work effectively and efficiently, and to reconsider the proposal to close Streatham police station and Peckham police station in particular.  I also ask you to consider retaining the local police bases in Dulwich and West Norwood, on Coldharbour Lane (in Brixton and Loughborough Junction), on the Kingswood Estate and the base on Norwood Road, which although in Streatham constituency, serves Thurlow and Knight’s Hill wards in my constituency, and using these to enable the much needed increased contact between local police and the communities they serve, as replacements for the failed Contact Point initiative.

I would very much welcome the opportunity to meet with you to discuss these concerns before MOPAC finalises its plans for police stations across London.  I look forward to hearing from you.

With best wishes,

Yours sincerely,

Helen


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