Opinion: Is permanent police merger gamble too far?
PUBLISHED: 08:00 25 February 2018
For several months our police service in Havering has been operating under a trial merger with neighbouring boroughs in Redbridge and Barking and Dagenham.
Resources have been pooled and the three boroughs have been effectively policed as one large area – often referred to as the tri-borough.
This controversial change to the way policing is delivered is now being rolled out across London by Sadiq Khan in a bid to save around £325million.
The Mayor claims he has taken this decision after a successful trial, yet just a few months back the tri-borough was experiencing a massive decline in the speed of its emergency responses.
The situation led to the leader of Barking and Dagenham Council declaring the merger had left officers ‘struggling to deliver effective policing’.
In the weeks and months since, the Met claims to have fixed the issue – and improvements have been made - but questions remain over the operational merits of making the move to this set-up permanent.
The tri-borough (Eastern Area BCU) is currently experiencing a spike in burglaries, something I recently met with Detective Superintendent Neil Matthews to discuss.
There are benefits to joint working with neighbouring forces, which can be useful when dealing with these types of crime as investigations often cross borough boundaries.
There are other advantages too, such as pooling specialist roles and operations.
But there is concern that areas like town centres will receive a greater focus and lower crime areas will be left exposed.
With violent crime rising across London is now the time to be undertaking a permanent change to London’s police force that just a few weeks ago was being treated as an experiment?
The Mayor will point to financial difficulties in the Met – but these have been plugged by his proposed increase in the Met Police precept on the council tax so the situation is not desperate.
It feels that by enforcing this change permanently at this stage, the Mayor is gambling with Londoners’ safety. I will be keeping a close eye on the ongoing progress of the tri-borough partnership to ensure that, if further issues arise, they are dealt with quickly and robustly.