One of Ken Livingstone’s six main pledges, made last Wednesday, relates to policing.
Boris Johnson has admitted cutting 1,700 police officers. If I am elected, I will reverse his cuts. And I will reinstate sergeants to all 600 Safer Neighbourhood Teams, more of which will be beefed up to a minimum of nine officers.
Livingstone in particular made much of last year’s decision by the Met to pull 150 sergeants out of their Safer Neighbourhood Teams. This affected Northfield ward. When our wonderful Sergeant Gergory Fox retired last year he was not replaced. Instead the sergeant running the Ealing Common team took over ours. Of course we would have liked to have kept our sergeant but the police decided that they wanted to use their sergeants for other roles. Labour have tried to dramatise this as a decision by Mayor Boris Johnson. Of course it was not. It was an operational decision taken by the Met.
Livingstone is simply not entitled to make his pledge on SNT sergeants. It represents operational interference with the police. In any case where would he magic experienced, trained sergeants from? The Met is entitled to make the decision that the traditional SNT sergeants have too small a span of control and can often easily manage two five man teams as our new sergeant does.
One week after Livingstone’s pledge the Met made an announcement about beefing up Safer Neighbourhood Teams after the Olympics, see here.
At the end of his remarks Assistant Commissioner Simon Byrne, head of Territorial Policing, confirms that it was the police that took out the sergeants, not the Mayor who has no power to impose operational changes on the police. He also makes it clear that the changes will stick in spite of Livingstone’s promises. To me this press release looks like a specific repudiation of Livingstone’s policing pledge just one week after he made it.
Last year we announced changes to the number of sergeants on Safer Neighbourhoods teams to make the supervisory ratios more inline with other police forces. Our new model now increases the number of police officers in local communities at a time when the MPS is facing budget challenges so this step is a clear statement of our commitment to local policing.