March 8 2014 Latest news:
by Tom Marshall
Friday, December 13, 2013
Scotland Yard has backed down and agreed to pay just £30-a-week to keep a police presence in Hampstead – two weeks after the Ham&High launched a campaign to raise the necessary cash.
Police in Camden have now been given the green light to pay £30-a-week to hire space for a new “contact point” at the Old Hampstead Town Hall in Haverstock Hill after Met chiefs at first refused to sign off the fee.
In a briefing to journalists last Friday, Camden Police’s borough commander said the fee was no longer an issue and that officers would not be needing the Ham&High’s help.
Ch Supt Ben-Julian “BJ” Harrington said: “Thank you for raising that issue, but it is not a block anymore.
“Thanks to the Ham&High, but we don’t need you to contribute. The money would come out of my policing budget.”
Scotland Yard’s U-turn came after the Ham&High brought the issue to the attention of Mayor of London Boris Johnson last week.
Mr Johnson branded the situation “mad” and pledged to look into the problem and “see what we can do”.
The Met also faced stinging criticism from councillors who were bitterly angry that £30 was deemed an unacceptable cost, despite the fact that Hampstead Police Station, which closed in June, is being sold off and is expected to raise millions of pounds.
The Ham&High had offered to raise the money from the community and had proposed that the paper would pay the £30 weekly fee for the first month and cover any future shortfall.
The police contact point will be manned three times a week for an hour at a time, giving the public the chance to drop in and speak to an officer about policing matters.
The nominal fee was to cover the costs of youth arts charity WAC Arts, which runs the old town hall.
Officers were keen to agree a deal when Scotland Yard vetoed the plan, insisting it would set a London-wide precedent that would lead to a big bill for contact points across the capital.
That was despite the fact that Old Hampstead Town Hall had been identified as the ideal location following a trial of four shortlisted options.
The other three sites – the Royal Free Hospital, Starbucks and Premier Inn – did not receive a single visitor between them.
Although the financial barrier has now been lifted, Ch Supt Harrington said that police could still opt for another location – or even decide not to open a base in Hampstead at all.
“We will make the decision before Christmas,” he said.