Council to go ahead with funding five police officers despite ‘unanswered questions’ from scrutiny committee

Havering Town Hall

Havering Town Hall - Credit: Archant

Plans for the council to fund five police officers will still go ahead, despite councillors believing the proposal was “rushed”.

Councillors met at Havering Town Hall on Tuesday, May 29, for the overview and scrutiny committee meeting to discuss the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime (Mopac) Partnership Plus Scheme, which will see Havering Council invest around £300,000 a year in policing for the next three years to fund five new posts.

The scheme was given the green light on Wednesday, May 9 but was called-in by the scrutiny committee in a bid to uphold a requisition and refer the proposal back to cabinet.

Interim enforcement group manager of neighbourhoods Rob Harper said: "It will give Havering an enforcement edge that most of your surrounding neighbourhoods have benefitted from for almost the 10 years that this scheme has been running.

"All of you and your respected wards will be aware of the level of crime and anti-social behaviour this is taking place and because of the BCU (Borough Command Unit) are understaffed, they often spend their time addressing the symptoms rather than intervening early to stop them from escalating."

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Labour leader Keith Darvill questioned where the extra officers will be focusing their attention to which cabinet member for public protection and safety Councillor Viddy Persaud said it would be "intelligence led".

She went onto explain that officers alongside the extra officers would meet every month with all of the data gathered from reported crimes and then make an "informed decision on how they are going to move forward".

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Mr Harper then stepped in and said: "You all know as representatives of your respected wards the incalculable impact of crime and anti-social behaviour in your neighbourhoods and anything we can do to make that demand on our services reduced and make the communities feel safe is a positive."

In response, Cllr Darvill replied: "I'm not saying it is not a good thing if we are getting the most out of it.

"I could almost use these officers in my own ward.

"There could be 18 wards with the same demand and these officers will not be able to scratch the surface."

During the meeting, leader of Havering Council Councillor Damian White wanted to make it clear that this is not to try and take over the duties of the Metropolitan Police.

He said: "What the council is trying to do is not subsidise the police but to deliver more police officers for Havering.

"Engaging more with the communities to tackle crime in wards is not the level of service that the Met provide anywhere in London so these five police officers will be adding additional value."

Next, Independent Residents' Group's Councillor David Durant queried whether the extra officers will be worth the £300,000.

"It is about the value for money", he said.

"If they are under control of the Metropolitan Police, they could be called up at any time, annual leave, sick days, so the actual police cover is not going to be 24/7.

"We've got to think about the value of these five officers and if the money could be better spent elsewhere.

"The Met is already understaffed and they will call on them more."

Leader of the Residents' Group Councillor Ray Morgon added: "When the BCU first started, we were told that officers from the area would be taken away for Notting Hill Carnival, New Year's Eve and something else and that didn't happen like that, they have been extracted from the borough for more than that.

"So how are you going to manage that, keeping them in the borough when they are employed by the Met?"

Whereas Cllr Persaud said days off were accounted for in the cost, Mr Harper insisted officers would be "ring-fenced" and primarily work in the borough as they would be funded by the local authority.

Chairwoman Councillor Maggie Themistocli concluded the meeting, asking for councillors to vote, despite some members saying that they still had "unanswered questions".

Councillor Darvill said: "It is about getting the best use out of the money that is going to be spent on it.

"The report has been rushed together and the requisition should be upheld so the cabinet can give further thought on it and perhaps even be enhanced."

However, nine councillors to seven voted against the requisition so the proposal for Havering Council to fund five police officers will still go ahead.

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