Residents fear for Hampstead police station’s future

Police spending cuts mean the force are looking to save money on their buildings

FEARS have again been raised for the future of Hampstead Police Station after the Metropolitan Police Service confirmed buildings would be first on the list to face the axe as �100million is cut from the force’s budget next year.

Deputy Commissioner Tim Godwin told a budget committee of the London Assembly last week that to protect front-line policing – the Met is already 1,000 officers down compared to last year’s figures – 25 per cent of its estate costs will be cut in the next three years.

Mr Godwin also confirmed the Met was leaning more towards running their services from “shop-counter” style offices – in local high streets, containing smaller teams – as opposed to large police stations such as Hampstead, as part of their property services review.

The news has sent alarm bells ringing among Hampstead residents who battled to save the Haverstock Hill base from closure just four years ago.

The Met will receive �109million less in grants from the government in 2011/12 than it did the previous year, which is a cut of five per cent. The force has already made some savings by putting a recruitment freeze in place, but Mr Godwin made it clear most of the cuts would have to come from back-office functions such as building costs, especially with the challenge of the Olympics next year.

Though much of the Met’s property service review has already been taking place in the past three years, Mr Godwin said that despite this and the cuts to staff, the authority “still has a gap to close”, thought to be about �60million.

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Speaking at Wednesday’s meeting, Mr Godwin said: “What we have done is identify how we can maintain our operational delivery in terms of front line services and so our emphasis is on reducing objects like buildings and looking at different ways of delivering those services.”

He later added: “Police stations have an iconic status in terms of communities, but they are not designed to give good services.”

Resident Pam Gilby, who helped to organise the previous campaign to save Hampstead Police Station four years ago said there is ‘enormous concern’ over the station’s future locally.

“We are all aware there are going to be cuts – there doesn’t seem to have been a threat particularly to Hampstead, but I would not be at all surprised if it was on the cards,” she said.

“I know it’s recognised that a lot of police operate on a mobile basis now, but the station is somewhere you can go to report things and know there’s a police presence. The station offers more than just a front counter service, it’s very reassuring for the public that they can just ring up their local station.

“You just don’t feel there’s the same personal touch in these new stations, the service there is absolutely minimal.”

Chairman of the Heath and Hampstead Society, Tony Hillier, who also fought for the station’s survival said: “We are not aware of any change – we believe the situation is that they are still being sensible in their thinking about Hampstead – but I do wish [Assembly Member for Barnet and Camden] Brian Coleman well on our behalf.”