Police in Southwark and Lambeth ‘could face merger’ as Met looks for budget cuts

News Desk (23 March, 2017) Politics Emergency services

Proposal labelled "a cost cutting exercise that we don’t want” by local London Assembly member

9366Florence Eshalomi, London Assembly member for Southwark and Lambeth

Lambeth and Southwark could be merged into one Met Police command unit, depending on the success of two pilot schemes being rolled out in north London.

Monday saw the release of the Met’s 2017-2021 Police and Crime Plan, which said: “the Met Police Service (MPS) is trialling a model of fewer, larger command units covering more than one borough.

“The aim of this approach is to improve response to crime that crosses Borough boundaries, reduce the amount the MPS spends on management and maximise the amount we can spend on frontline policing such as neighbourhood teams and 999 response.

“The larger command units also bring together specialist officers into larger, more locally based teams, strengthening their capacity to investigate serious crimes and support victims.”

The two pilot schemes will see mergers of three outer-London boroughs (Barking and Dagenham, Havering and Redbridge) and a second merger of two inner-London boroughs (Islington and Camden).

If successful, and rolled out across London, the overall number of borough commands could go from 32 to twelve.

It is thought that Lambeth and Southwark would link up and share one borough commander.

Greenwich, Lewisham and Bexley could also become one unit.

It was said in the Police and Crime Plan that the mergers could help The Met with its ambition “that back office costs are reduced to fifteen per cent of the MPS’ overall expenditure”.

But Lambeth and Southwark’s London Assembly member, Florence Eshalomi, labelled the proposals “a cost cutting exercise that we don’t want”.

“What’s the response rate going to be for places like Streatham and Dulwich, if all the police could end up being concentrated into the middle of the two boroughs, in Brixton and Peckham where there are higher crime rates?” Florence said.

“Lambeth and Southwark always come up in the top three for the boroughs with the highest crime rates. It feels rushed a bit, and a lot of people don’t know about it. It would be a big change.”

Florence has signed a joint letter with Dulwich and West Norwood MP Helen Hayes and two Lambeth MPs to Met commissioner Cressida Dick.

The letter reads: “We are very concerned about the impact that this significant change will have on our communities and on the effectiveness of policing in Lambeth.”

It adds that the results of the pilot of the scheme in north London should not be used as a basis for rolling out the merger scheme here, saying “neither of these areas are similar or reflective to the policing challenges that are apparent in Lambeth and Southwark”.

Southwark’s borough commander, Simon Messinger, was approached for comment, but was not available.

Scotland Yard has not responded to the News’ request for a comment.

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