Chair of Safer Neighbourhood Panel: Camden and Islington police merger ‘is not working’

Jessica Learmond-Criqui has criticised the merger of Islington and Camden borough police forces.

Jessica Learmond-Criqui has criticised the merger of Islington and Camden borough police forces. - Credit: Archant

The merger of Camden and Islington borough police forces was presented as a way of modernising the service. But according to chair of the Frognal and Fitzjohns Safer Neighbourhood Panel, Jessica Learmond-Criqui, the initiative is not working.

It is clear that mayor Sadiq Khan faces a difficult task fighting London’s corner given the government’s stance on cuts to police funding. But, for the reasons below, he has not gone far enough.

While the government has shelved its plans for a revision of the police funding formula which could have seen further cuts of £600m, the Met still has to make £400m of cuts due to rising costs with zero further funding from the government.

As head of the Met, Mayor Khan is tasked, among other things, with setting the annual force budget in consultation with the commissioner and responding to the needs of the communities that the Met serves.

The merger of boroughs which has taken place as part of the £400m savings is not working.

One of its effects has been the raiding of neighbourhood policing to provide more response team officers who are now tasked with investigating the crime to which they respond.

But, they have to respond to crime – so when do they have time to investigate?

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The effect is that there is an increasing schism developing between the police and the communities they have served so well since the start of neighbourhood policing.

Morale in the Met is at an all time low, crimes are not being solved and communities are beginning to feel abandoned.

Just over five years ago, there were 3 PCs and 3 PCSOs per ward – today in our ward, we have one third of a Sergeant, 2 PCs and 1 PCSO.

Other wards face a similar fate.

The task of community policing is overwhelming for these diminished numbers of ‘boots on the ground’.

Some crimes are now out of control, such as moped enabled phone snatches, for which the Met does not have sufficient resources and to which they have no answer.

Burglaries abound with few arrests and victims are left hanging with a crime number and no investigation or solution.

I salute the new commissioner, Cressida Dick, for her service to Londoners by speaking out about the crisis in Met funding and would urge her to be more vocal and forceful with the government.

Mayor Khan can do more by demanding at least £1bn more for the Met to reverse the £500m cuts which have taken place and to service the current additional £400m of cuts.

Without his commitment to do that for Londoners, with the commissioner, not only will the Met have to reconsider how they fight crime, but communities will have to consider their own response to a failure of the mayor and the Met to protect them.

The same can be said for the London Fire service.

With £100m savings made during Boris Johnson’s reign which included the closure of Belsize Park fire station, our area has to rely on stations in Kentish Town, West Hampstead and Euston.

With HS2 and possibly CS11 threatening to snarl the area with traffic, response times for emergencies during the school run will be challenged putting lives at risk.

The community has asked the mayor to reintroduce a fire service in Belsize Park. He would do well to heed their call.