When I heard about yet more cuts to our police force from this chaotic and failing Tory government, I was appalled, though sadly not particularly surprised. The Liberal Democrats with their Coalition partners (or should that be bosses?) started this campaign of rolling cutbacks when they were in power between 2010-2015. This of course sat alongside a policy of deep austerity to other public services, including to Lambeth council - which has seen a whopping 56% removed from its budget since the start of the decade. Thanks to this approach, seemingly backed by Lambeth’s toothless Liberal Democrats and Tories, the Met has already endured £600 million in cuts. And now the Tory government has announced a further £400 million of planned reductions which incredibly means that over ten years one billion pounds will be removed from the policing budget in London.
When Theresa May can find the same amount down the back of the sofa to give to their new partners the DUP, we can see this is a political choice; this is about the Tory party and their survival, not about the safety of our capital city. Why not invest in keeping our exciting, metropolitan city secure and well policed, rather than risk making it less safe by using the money in a political deal?
London has already lost 1000 police officers. Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, has warned that these new cuts could mean we see a further 12,800 officers removed from our streets. In Lambeth, as well police officers, we are set to lose eight police stations, including Kennington which is my neighbourhood station in the north of the borough. Removing this station from public use will make it harder for residents to have a face to face officer to interact with, whether it’s to report a crime, make a complaint or get advice. Moreover, it surely doesn’t fill any of us with confidence that the government has a grip on tackling the big issues in our city more widely. Like helping us to tackle the growing threat of terrorism or protecting minority groups, such as the LGBT community or our diverse communities from different ethnic backgrounds, who have seen a rise in hate crime towards them in the past few years.
As the Safer Neighbourhood Panel chair for my ward of Oval, I have seen first hand how hard the police work. I'm proud that we have one of the few forces who do not carry guns and that has in recent years showed a willingness to learn from past mistakes and work hard on the ground to improve their relations with all sections of our community.
Like all organsiations, there is room for improvement, but we should maintain, or better still grow, our neighbourhood policing, not cutting it back to the bone. I am in no doubt: these closures will make it more difficult to carry out community-focussed neighbourhood policing that is vital to keep our streets safe.
Lambeth Labour councilors, local MPs and community activists are campaigning to save our stations. Lambeth leader Cllr Lib Peck has co-ordinated an open letter from council leaders of 20 Labour-run boroughs, to the government, calling on them to scrap this devastating approach and to work with the Mayor of London to keep stations open.
I would urge every resident to sign our petition here and respond to the Mayor’s consultation paper here.
We must campaign to keep London safe – and Londoners deserve better that this Tory attempt at policing on the cheap.
Labour candidate Oval Ward