Fleur’s speech to the full Council meeting on 11th October 2017
We need a Council that will listen to local residents and their concerns about safety and crime, that will square up to the Tory Government and will vigorously oppose any further police cuts.
I’d like to start by thanking our Wandsworth police force and community safety officers who are so dedicated and effective – including the police officer who broke his foot whilst chasing and making an arrest in Bedford ward this week. We are united in supporting the Community Safety Partnership Plan and its new priority areas. In particular I welcome the Mayor’s commitment to have Dedicated Ward Officers in each ward, most are whom already in place in Wandsworth.
Now we need to also unite in opposing government police cuts. Tory councillors should stop playing politics with residents’ safety, should take responsibility for the effects of Tory austerity policies and should stop blaming the London Mayor for the government’s police budget cuts.
Funding crisis in the police service
We are facing a funding crisis in our police services caused by sustained real-terms cuts by the Government. The Met has already had to deliver £600m in savings between 2012 and 2016. And now, a further £400m is required in the next four years. In the Wandsworth public consultation meeting, the Borough Commander called these the biggest changes he has seen in his 29 year career in the Met.
Its not just the police but community safety too. Crime increases have been seen across England and Wales as a result of this failing Tory government, including as a result of cuts to so many other services that help prevent crime. In Wandsworth last year there were 40 staff in the Youth Offending team and this year there are 36 staff members. We need the resources to be able to deliver the community safety plan not just in the Met but also in community crime prevention services.
Its not just community police but other units too: cuts to Counter Terror funding
Counter Terror funding is being cut and this should be opposed. The non-political, expert Chief Constable Sara Thornton, Chair of The National Police Chiefs’ Council, set out last month that Counter Terror funding for policing is being cut by more than 7 per cent over the next three years. The Prime Minister, as a former Home Secretary, should be ashamed. This is a particular issue for London where terrorist threat levels are high and responding to events costly. We know that for every £1 of Counter Terrorism spend in response to an incident, around £2 is spent on necessary additional non-Counter Terrorism activity, which puts more strain on community police budgets.
The London Mayor is doing all he can to raise money for the police
This funding crisis means that Londoners’ safety is increasingly at risk. The Mayor has been lobbying the Government to take action ever since he was elected. Wandsworth Council should be lobbying the Government too. The Mayor increased council tax by the maximum allowed to fund the police, so that he could do everything in his power to provide more resources to the Met. All of the money possible through this mechanism was given to the police.
However this is simply nowhere near enough to fill the funding gap caused by the government.
In contrast, the previous Tory Mayor chose not to increase the council tax precept for 2016. This left a gap in the Greater London Authority income available for the Met. Despite Boris Johnson’s decision, Sadiq Khan has now made an additional £24m available. He is doing all he can – it’s the government’s cuts that the council must oppose.
Changes to police stations in Wandsworth
The Mayor has committed to ensuring that each borough will maintain a 24 hour police front counter. The Borough Commander is right to keep response times and keep the numbers of bobbies on the streets. The plans include more modernised approaches and more public engagement in different ways. This is being done by saving money on costly buildings and senior management – he has had to make invidious choices.
But enough is enough.
Three actions are urgent:
1. We now need to know where the Lavender Hill police station will be moved to and where the new community hubs will be, and then we need consultation on these plans. We need more consultation, less cuts
2. We also need assurance that the 101 phoneline responses will be vastly improved, as these are used by far more people to contact the police than police stations.
3. But above all we need a Council that will listen to local residents and their concerns about safety and crime, that will square up to the Tory Government and will vigorously oppose any further cuts.
(Wandsworth Conservative councillors didn’t agree and voted against taking any action to lobby the government on police cuts).