‘Force is being decimated by cuts’
London Assembly member bemoans ‘final nail in the coffin for neighbourhood policing’
MONEY saving proposals to axe police community support officers (PCSOs) would be ‘the final nail in the coffin for neighbourhood policing’, says Hillingdon’s London Assembly member.
Dr Onkar Sahota issued his warning ahead of the Metropolitan Police management board meeting on September 29 to discuss the latest cuts.
He said it would result in neighbourhood policing teams reduced to just a single police officer for each ward, despite there being six officers (three PCSOs, two PCs and a sergeant) only three years ago.
The Labour politician added: “This is the clearest sign yet that government cuts are decimating London’s police force.
“Axing all of London’s PCSOs would be the final nail in the coffin for neighbourhood policing and mean far fewer officers on the beat in our communities acting as the eyes and ears of the Met.
“London mayor Boris Johnson has already cut neighbourhood police teams from six officers to only two, axing every PCSO would leave just a single officer left to police vast areas of the capital.
“With at least £800m of expected cuts hanging over the Met, there is a real question as to whether the police service as we know it will exist in 10 years’ time.”
There are currently 25 PSCOs in Hillingdon, all of whom could face the axe under the proposals, which were due to be discussed yesterday (Tuesday) as the Gazette went to press.
Met Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe warned earlier this year that large budget cuts could see them forced to ‘pick and choose priorities’, though he denied suggestions the force might stop investigating low level crimes such as burglaries.
The commissioner suggested the public may have to take better care of their safety and crime prevention in future.
Responding to Dr Sahota’s criticism, London’s deputy mayor for policing and crime, Stephen Greenhalgh, said: “No decisions have been made about the future of neighbourhood police community support officers.
“Neighbourhood policing is a priority for the mayor and we have put 2,600 extra officers into neighbourhoods, as well as increasing overall officer numbers to 32,000.
“Therefore, the case for any change would have to be made alongside consultation.
“It is likely that tough choices will need to be made, and we are aware that the Met are considering ways in which they can balance the books and manage powerfully, a public possible reductions in their budget beyond 2016.”
The details of the government’s future funding settlement for policing is expected to be clearer after November’s comprehensive spending review.
n CUTS FEARS: Dr Onkar Sahota