December 6 2013 Latest news:
Thursday, September 19, 2013
A branch of Starbucks could become home to Hampstead’s new police base – but officers admit they are concerned about the coffee giant’s reputation for tax avoidance.
The company’s South End Road café is being considered as a new police contact point to fill the void left by the closure of the area’s century-old police station, in Rosslyn Hill, in June.
Residents would be able to report crimes and speak to officers at three set times per week, surrounded by customers enjoying their coffees.
Starbucks is understood to be the most enthusiastic candidate on a shortlist of four possible contact points, which includes the Royal Free Hospital, Pond Street.
But Camden officers have voiced doubts about teaming up with a company that has been widely criticised for its tax arrangements.
The opening hours will be 8pm to 9pm on Wednesdays and Thursdays and 2pm to 3pm on Saturdays.
Hampstead Town Hall Centre – September 25, 26 and 28
Royal Free Hospital – October 2, 3 and 5
Starbucks – October 9, 10 and 12
Premier Inn – October 16, 17 and 19
Sgt Ryan Keating, of the Hampstead Town Safer Neighbourhoods Team (SNT), who is in charge of the location search, said: “There are obvious concerns about Starbucks. There could be a risk to the Met’s reputation if we work with people who are famous for aggressively avoiding tax.
“It’s not something we’re taking on lightly, but when we have spoken to people in the community, quite a few said it’s a good idea.”
The other two possibilities are the Hampstead Town Hall Centre and Premier Inn, both in Haverstock Hill. Officers are set to stage trials at all four sites over the coming weeks to determine which works best, starting with their favoured option of Hampstead Town Hall from Wednesday, September 25.
Sgt Keating said: “The location of the town hall is perfect and that one is up there as our ideal choice.”
He added: “We will run this contact point wherever the community wants it to be – except Hampstead Police Station.”
Residents on the Hampstead Town Safer Neighbourhoods Panel remain doubtful about the entire contact point scheme.
William Welbank, chairman, labelled them “an idea designed to fail”, adding: “Coffee bars are not appropriate for sensitive personal discussions. Contact with police is best done in a police environment.”
Hampstead Town Cllr Simon Marcus said he still hopes police will return to the old station, despite efforts to sell it off.
But he said: “I believe the old town hall would be the best option for a contact point. I do not think Starbucks will provide the privacy necessary.”
Simon Redfern, Starbucks UK’s director of corporate affairs, said: “We are liable to pay £20million in corporation tax by the end of next year, £5million of which we have already paid. We welcome any questions or concerns local residents may have on this issue.
“We regularly provide space in our stores for local community groups and meetings and we welcome the local police in Hampstead to use an area in our store.”