Six Westminster police sergeants to be cut

Maida Vale, Little Venice and Bayswater are to lose their dedicated safer neighbourhood team sergeants despite increasing criticism of cuts to police numbers.

Six sergeant posts will disappear in Westminster meaning just one sergeant will look after both Maida Vale and Harrow Road wards, one for Little Venice and Westbourne, and one for Bayswater and Lancaster Gate.

All existing sergeants will have to reapply for their jobs and nominate their preferred ward before it is decided where they will be allocated.

The move has provoked widespread criticism from senior political figures and their concerns have been echoed by people involved in neighbourhood policing in Westminster.

The Wood&Vale can reveal that 15 Westminster safer neighbourhood ward panel chairmen wrote a letter to Metropolitan police bosses last month expressing their “grave concerns” at the decision to cut sergeants.

Jack Gordon, chairman of the Hyde Park panel, said: “Irrespective of whether we thought the decision to cut the posts was a fait accompli, we thought it was our duty to do all we could to protect our frontline sergeants. It was unanimously agreed that we should take the fight to the steps of Scotland Yard.”

Little Venice panel chairman Elizabeth Virgo says the cuts will “do away with the idea of what safer neighbourhood teams are all about.”

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She said: “The teams have done an incredible amount of good work in our area but they are getting less time to do it because they keep getting diverted to other wards.”

She added that the decision to have one sergeant looking after Little Venice and Westbourne lacks “common sense”.

“Westbourne, as a ward, has plenty of gang activity moving through it so one would have thought you need more police there, which means a sergeant of its own,” she said.

“Having a sergeant split between two areas where the type of crime is totally different does not make sense.”

Westminster Det Supt Penelope Banham says the affected wards were selected based on demographics, crime figures, footfall figures and community issues.

“This was not an easy decision for us to make and I understand there may be concerns about the proposed changes,” she said.

“However, please be assured that we remain as committed as ever to meeting the demands of the local community, maintaining our operational capability, and continuing our commitment to having an SNT in every ward, with a dedicated supervisor.”

The number of PCs and PCSOs will not be affected.