Karen Buck, Labour MP for Westminster North
Karen Buck, Labour MP for Westminster North, voices her concerns about changes to local policing.
To no one’s surprise, the issue of police station and counter closures did not feature in Boris Johnson’s election manifesto last year.
Neither did the fact that there will be fundamental changes to safer neighbourhood policing, nor that there have already been significant cuts in police numbers locally. Westminster’s total policing strength is down by 202 since 2012, a 12 per cent fall. But a few months on, the next wave of cuts to hit the Metropolitan Police are a reality.
Boris’s police committee has just announced the closure of 65 stations and police counters in London, confirming the closure of St John’s Wood and Marylebone, where decisions have already been made, and proposing the closure of Harrow Road.
The argument will be made that ‘boots on the street’ are more important than bricks and mortar, and that reporting is done more online and by phone, but this argument misses the point.
Of course the way we police our city should change over time and better use can be made of the buildings, not least through sharing premises with the council, say, or the NHS.
However, a police, and a wider public service, presence in the community is important.
If safer neighbourhood police also have no local base, inevitably we will notice their absence. In addition, Westminster Council and others have also been withdrawing – the One Stop services in Harrow Road and Church Street are gone, as is the council house on Marylebone Road, funding for neighbourhood offices has vanished and fewer services are run from children’s centres.
The West End has always dragged attention and resources away from the residential north of the borough. We must make our voice heard before we fall even further behind.