Labour Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, speaking in London today was clear:
“Labour will ensure that frontline policing is protected but the Conservatives won’t match this guarantee. The Conservative threat to frontline services is shown here in London where the future of local police teams is at risk from the Conservative mayor Boris Johnson. We are issuing a challenge to every Tory candidate in the capital today to say where they stand on Conservative Boris Johnson’s failure to protect the neighbourhood police guarantee.”
The message was echoed by Labour’s London Minister, Tessa Jowell, who said:
“Every ward in London currently has a minimum Safer Neighbourhood Team of beat officers comprising one sergeant, two police constables and three PCSOs to patrol local streets. Boris Johnson is cutting police numbers and has quit as chair of the police authority. Londoners are entitled to know from every Conservative candidate in London whether they back our safer neighbourhood police teams. The Mayor refuses to guarantee they will continue to be based on their existing form. The Conservatives would threaten the safety of our streets by refusing to match our commitment to frontline policing.”
So where do the Conservatives stand?
Under questioning from the London Assembly, Mayor Boris Johnson has repeatedly refused to guarantee the future of the minimum deployment of neighbourhood teams, saying ‘I have no intention of imposing a one-size-fits-all model across the whole of London’, and describing it as ‘a pointless piece of top-downery’.
When, as Chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority, I led the introduction of the Safer Neighbourhood Teams in 2004, I was adamant – as was Mayor Ken Livingstone – that all parts of London should be treated equally and fairly (A future fair for all?) and that the policy should be applied transparently – each local government ward in would have a Safer Neighbourhood Team made up of a Sergeant, two Police Constables and three Police Community Support Officers.
Safer Neighbourhoods Teams are dedicated to the needs of each specific neighbourhood. They are permanent and work at a grass roots level in addition to London’s other policing teams and specialist units. The programme began its phased roll out in April 2004, and in April 2006 the remaining teams were put in place. All 624 neighbourhood wards across the capital now have their own dedicated Safer Neighbourhoods team – around 20 teams per borough.
Under Boris Johnson police numbers in London are being cut by a total of 455 officers. Over his four budgets Boris Johnson will oversee a decline in the total number of police officers for London.
Borough commanders are being told to find 5% of savings. The Guardian reported on 3 February: One police borough commander told the Guardian they were trying to limit the cuts to civilian staff: “We are having to lose staff and that is a painful situation.” But savings are not being used to protect police numbers, which will fall by 455. And At the 2010/11 budget-setting meeting on 10/2/10 he refused to use a council tax windfall of £5.7m to help protect police numbers.