LABOUR STANDS UP FOR WANDSWORTH COMMUNITY SAFETY

Labour councillors challenged the Conservative administration at last week’s meeting of Wandsworth Council over the dangerous triple threat of cuts to council community safety teams, huge national police cuts and the threatened closure of local police stations.

Rex Osborn

Labour councillors called a debate on cuts to the council’s community safety teams, which are to be slashed by 25%.

During the debate, Cllr Rex Osborn, Leader of the Labour Group, brought silence to the Conservative benches when it was revealed they were clueless over the potential threat to Lavender Hill police station, which Labour have been raising concerns over for some time.

A response to questioning by Labour councillors also revealed that Wandsworth’s police Safer Neighbourhood Teams are currently understaffed by a staggering 31 PCSOs. No firm assurances were offered as to when and how this problem would be rectified.

In the context of 20% cuts to policing nationally, and a known 1,200 officers lost between 2010-12 in London alone under Boris Johnson, Labour is concerned about the risk this poses to community cohesion and safety.

Cllr Osborn, Leader of the Labour Group, said: “The Council’s own paper acknowledges that community safety is a priority for the residents of Wandsworth – yet it still plans to push ahead with cuts to its front line community safety staff. At the same time, it refuses to acknowledge that the future of Lavender Hill police station is in doubt, in spite of confirmation from the Mayor of London’s office that it has been pre-approved for closure and disposal.

“Given that Lavender Hill station is just metres away from one of the worst affected areas by last summer’s riots, Wandsworth residents rightly expect their Council to fight for its future now – rather than wait until a decision to sell it off has been finalised.

“Although Labour councillors understand that cuts need to be made during these difficult economic times, we would prioritise and protect community safety services – as residents have told us they would want us to – and find savings elsewhere.”

GOVERNMENT CUTS CREATING SEVERE POLICE SHORTAGE FOR WANDSWORTH

Cuts to police funding has led to severe under-staffing amongst Wandsworth’s Safer Neighbourhood Teams. The Tory-led Government’s 20 per cent cuts to policing go too far too fast and are already having a damaging impact on police forces here in Wandsworth, and across the country. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary has estimated that these front-loaded cuts will lead to the loss of over 16,000 police officers over the next 4 years.

Wandsworth Labour councillors are concerned by the resultant lack of neighbourhood policing, and the effect this will have on local neighbourhood safety. Despite the duty for Safer Neighbourhood Teams to be represented by a minimum team of 6 for an average ward – comprising of 1 Sergeant, 2 PCs and 3 PCSOs – a majority in Wandsworth fall well short of this level.

Cuts to the police have meant that wards like Tooting are represented by only 2 police officers, and no PCSOs – despite the fact Tooting presents higher crime rates when compared to other areas with comparatively better police representation. The stretch on local policing is exacerbated by the fact that many personnel are forced to serve two neighbourhoods concurrently. According to police reports, this affects as many as 10 wards.

Cllr Leonie Cooper London Assembly candidate for Merton and Wandsworth said, “As Mayor, Boris Johnson has completely failed to stand up for Londoners and police numbers have plummeted. Even worse than Tooting, Furzedown ward only has 1 officer – the Sergeant. This is a disgrace. In May, Labour will reverse the Tory Mayor’s cuts to community policing, supporting all Safer Neighbourhood Teams across London. This would reverse this worrying shortage in Wandsworth, and help keep our streets safe.”

The Facts:

  • Boris Johnson has cut 1,700 police officers across London during the last 2 years.
  • More than 10,000 police officers in England and Wales are to be cut over the next two years.
  • The number of police dealing with 999 emergencies has fallen by more than 5,000 since the last general election.
  • Now, after years of declining crime rates under Labour, the latest British Crime Survey figures showed personal crime – including theft, robbery and violence – has gone up by 11% since last year, the steepest rise for more than a decade.

 

Cuts To Parks Police Go Ahead Despite Offer Of Plan B

The borough’s parks police service will be disbanded and replaced by Metropolitan police officers. Tory Councillors voted for the plans to go ahead at a full council meeting last week, despite receiving a petition opposing the move with 1,372 signatures from residents. It will mean the existing 23 parks police will be replaced by a team of 12 Metropolitan police officers to patrol its parks and open spaces. They will be backed by a team of five existing park police officers to be used for public events.

Labour councillor Leonie Cooper said: “The parks and open spaces of Wandsworth are what brings many people to the borough. “We need them to be safe pleasant spaces, and 12 Met officers is not enough to guarantee that. “It would seem that helping the Conservative Mayor of London solve his budget problem is more important than what local people want and need.”

The vote still went ahead despite the submission of a business proposal by the parks police and their UNISON representative which argued more savings could be made if the service was retained. A UNISON spokesman said: “We are not going to be better off, they are going for quick buck and we will be looking at all angles and the possibilites of taking legal action.” The park police service will be disbanded by April next year.

Read the full story here:

http://www.wandsworthguardian.co.uk/news/9410191.Wandsworth_s_park_police_will_be_replaced_by_Met_officers/?ref=mr

WANDSWORTH LABOUR SUPPORTS CALL FOR CLAMP DOWN ON GANG DISORDER IN WANDSWORTH

 The Wandsworth Labour Group welcomes the report of the Independent Commissioner, Mr Neil Kinghan, into the disorder in the Borough in August, and fully supports all its recommendations.

Wandsworth Labour Leader, Councillor Rex Osborn said: “While I praise the courage of our local Police and their actions on August 8th, I welcome Mr Kinghan’s report because it asks tough questions of the Police – in particular, why Wandsworth was left so poorly protected that night. The report also highlights the threat posed by a gang culture on our estates and across our Borough. Our Residents and businesses need and deserve answers and actions on both counts. We must never forget that we can only offer a helping hand to those in need if we use a firm hand to maintain order.”

 “Labour councillors will work with Conservative colleagues to implement all the recommendations in the report, such as engagement with a relaunch of Clapham Junction and a focus on the Borough’s Safer Neighbourhood Team panels to close down these gangs. Mr Kinghan’s report underlines the fact that there are children in this Borough who grow up in some of the poorest families in Britain making them easy prey to the way of the gangs and it calls for more Council support for residents associations, families and for sports and youth facilities. Better Police intelligence gathering, better Police training, better Police planning and more action against the gangs are all needed. Mr Kinghan’s report reflects this, which is why it has the full support of the Wandsworth Labour group.”

Cllr Leonie Cooper, GLA candidate for Merton & Wandsworth and Opposition Speaker for Community Safety said: “The Labour Group also feels strongly that those found guilty of damaging our local community and environment should give something back, not simply be fined or imprisoned, but as part of a PayBack deal to work to repair and restore areas of our community they have damaged. Transport for London’s Fare Dodgers scheme, for example, ensures those found guilty pay back by painting railings or working in parks. I look forward to working with our Conservative colleagues to create a similar scheme in Wandsworth.”

Read the report in full:

http://ww3.wandsworth.gov.uk/moderngov/mgConvert2PDF.aspx?ID=15102

and a summary here:

http://ww3.wandsworth.gov.uk/moderngov/mgConvert2PDF.aspx?ID=15101

Labour Wins Cross-Party Agreement On London Police Funding

Wandsworth Tories  joined with the Labour Group at a Special Council meeting last week to ask the Mayor of London and the Government to look again at police funding for London. The following motion was agreed by both parties:

“This Council notes:-

(a) the successful implementation of Safer Neighbourhood Teams across Wandsworth;

 (b) that Police numbers have been the subject of much political debate, with both the majority party and the minority party supporting full strength Safer Neighbourhood Teams, and adequate Metropolitan Police being allocated to the Borough;

 (c) the Metropolitan Police’s settlement under the Comprehensive Spending Review was very tight thanks to the financial conditions in response to which the former Commissioner was forced to suspend recruitment;

(d) that on the night of 8th August 2011 there were insufficient officers stationed in the Borough to maintain order, leading to uncontrolled crime and disorder for several hours in the Clapham Junction area, and further notes that any further reduction in police numbers will give comfort to criminals, and reduce local ability to cope with any further disturbances;

(e) that in what was a rapidly changing situation with disorders across the entire capital, the Metropolitan Police Service took difficult operational decisions and, when they were able to, deployed additional resources to restore order across the Borough; and

(f) that although Police numbers are important there are many other factors that are also important – for example, numbers of officers trained to appropriate standards to cope with widespread public disorder, the accuracy of intelligence and effective managerial deployment of a finite resource;

This Council therefore:-

(i) deplores the widespread criminality of 8th August, and supports the Police and the criminal justice agencies in ensuring swift and appropriate punishment;

 (ii) calls on the Mayor of London to rethink the proposals for reduction in the Metropolitan Police budget, and supports the Mayor of London in asking the Government relook at the issue of Police numbers, but recognises the Government would need to redirect spending from elsewhere to support the greater level of need in the capital;

 iii) calls for more local Police to receive training in dealing with riots and street disorder, to ensure the events of the 8th August are not repeated, and that law-abiding local citizens and businesses can remain safe; and

iv) commits itself to an energetic and methodical approach to rebuilding in this post disorder period in order that business and local residents are fully supported , and the statutory agencies reflect , learn and ensure that their policies and programmes address both the short and long-term implications of the disorder.”

Special meeting of Wandsworth Council called to oppose police cuts

Wandsworth’s Labour Group has called a special council meeting to urge Conservatives to oppose police cuts.

The meeting, to be held on September 21, comes as a combined response to the recent Battersea riots and coalition cuts proposals, which critics claim will see 16,000 police officers axed.

Read the full story here: http://www.wandsworthguardian.co.uk/news/9254319.Special_meeting_called_to_oppose_police_cuts/

Special Council Meeting on 21st September – Labour Forces Police Cuts Debate

Motion to be moved by Councillor Osborn and seconded by Councillor Mrs. L. Cooper

Police Numbers

 “This Council notes:-

 (a) the successful implementation of Safer Neighbourhood Teams across Wandsworth;

(b) that Police numbers have been the subject of much political debate, with both the majority party and the minority party supporting full strength Safer Neighbourhood Teams, and adequate Metropolitan Police being allocated to the Borough;

 (c) that recent proposals to cut the size of Safer Neighbourhood Teams, initially by reducing the number of Sergeants are not helpful in fighting crime and maintaining good community policing and law and order;

 (d) that further cuts totalling 1,800 Metropolitan Police officers will be implemented during 2012, which will lead to increases in crime and decreases in detection; and

 (e) that on the night of 8th August 2011 there were insufficient officers stationed in the Borough to maintain order, leading to uncontrolled crime and disorder for several hours in the Clapham Junction area, and further notes that any further reduction in police numbers will give comfort to criminals, and reduce local ability to cope with any further disturbances.

 This Council therefore:-

(i) calls on the Mayor of London to reverse all cuts to Safer Neighbourhood Team Sergeants;

 (ii) calls on the Mayor of London to re-think his proposals for cuts to the Metropolitan Police; and

(iii) calls for more local Police to receive training in dealing with riots and street disorder, to ensure the events of the 8th August are not repeated, and that law-abiding local citizens and businesses can remain safe.”

In addition we will be discussing the Council’s proposals to evict innocent families from Council houses, along with anyone who is convicted  of taking part in the recent civil unrest. Read the full papers here:

http://ww3.wandsworth.gov.uk/moderngov/mgConvert2PDF.aspx?ID=3822&T=10

LABOUR CALLS SPECIAL COUNCIL MEETING TO OPPOSE POLICE CUTS

The Wandsworth Labour Group has requisitioned a special meeting of the Council to question the majority Conservative party over its response to the recent riots, and to urge councillors to oppose the police cuts being proposed by the Coalition government.

The special meeting will be held at Wandsworth Town Hall on 21 September. Wandsworth Labour Group leader, Councillor Rex Osborn said: “Wandsworth was one of the boroughs worst hit by the rioting and looting. It is clear that a shortage of police officers was a major problem in Clapham Junction when the disturbances occurred. It took 16,000 police to eventually bring order to London’s streets – and 16,000 is exactly the number of police officers this government plans to cut.

Here in Wandsworth we will lose at least five police sergeants this year alone; local police teams will be merged or moved from areas they currently patrol. “Wandsworth Council has a duty to oppose cuts in police numbers. For that we need a council meeting and the Labour Party has ensured this will take place on September 21. The police need our support, not the threat of job losses. “I, and all the Labour councillors, want to ensure that the scenes we saw at the beginning of August are never repeated in Wandsworth. This will involve asking some difficult questions, which the majority party have so far failed to answer.”

Councillor Leonie Cooper, the GLA candidate for Merton & Wandsworth and opposition speaker for Community Safety said: “The London riots proved that not only is there no room for police cuts at the current time, but also that the current force are spread too thinly. It’s shocking that Wandsworth Council continues to support cuts to police at a time when community safety is at the top of residents’ priorities.”

For more on the police cuts read:

http://www.wandsworthguardian.co.uk/news/9228401.Shadow_Home_Secretary_pays_visit_to_riot_hit_Clapham/

For more on the meetings:

http://www.wandsworth.gov.uk/news/article/10655/council_launches_disorder_review?utm_source=Wandsworth%406&utm_campaign=dbbb527682-Wandsworth%406&utm_medium=email

Sacking the Parks Police is a False Economy

By Christian Klapp, Labour’s Candidate for Putney Thamesfield

On 5th April the Council voted through a plan to sack all 24 of the borough’s Parks Police officers. Let me just repeat that: every single parks police constable is being sacked by Wandsworth Council. Let’s talk about the context of that decision.

The cuts to the Metropolitan Policing budget that Boris Johnson is implementing, that will see 1,000 police officer posts abolished. In an attempt to minimise the damage these cuts will have, Boris has offered London boroughs a deal to fund a police officer. Wandsworth has decided to take up this offer: they are buying eight officers, and that will – supposedly – safeguard another eight borough police officers’ jobs. And it’s in that context that Wandsworth are terminating the jobs of all 24 of our Parks Police officers. So on the one hand we have eight police jobs underwritten by Wandsworth Council Taxpayers. On the other we lose 24 Parks Police. Not a very good exchange rate, is it?

 What do the Parks Police do? Well, most obviously they patrol our parks, cemeteries and open spaces. Wandsworth has 800 acres of such land that it is responsible for. They are attested constables and have powers of arrest while enforcing byelaws and parks regulations. And they secure parks and cemeteries – like Wandsworth Park; like Leaders Gardens; like Putney Cemetery on the Common – at night to stop anti social behaviour and crime in these unlit spaces. They also raise for the council £250,000 in income from policing big events.

 The council hopes that sacking 24 Parks Police and employing 8 “full” police will provide the same level of service for less money. I hope you’re as sceptical as I am that this could be the case.

For a start, redundancy payouts for the 24 sacked Parks Police will cost more than three years’ worth of projected savings.

Second, the council is unable to tell us whether the eight Police Officers they’re going to fund are new officers in addition to existing levels, or will simply underwrite existing posts. If police numbers fall still further in Wandsworth over coming years, will the excuse be: “yes, but that’s eight officers more than we would otherwise have”? How can we guarantee that these officers will be safeguarded? No one seems able to explain that.

Third, these officers will be employed and line-managed by Wandsworth Police, not Wandsworth Council. They will answer to the Met – as they should and will be required to address Met priorities, not parks priorities.

Fourth, given they work for the Met, it is surely eminently reasonable that any income they generate will go to the Met, not the council. Have you ever heard of anyone doing a job for one organisation but an entirely separate one being paid for their efforts? No, neither have I.

Finally – and most importantly – this big reduction in staffing levels raises the spectre of our parks and cemeteries being left unlocked at night. Would you be comfortable with a vast, unlit space like Wandsworth Park being open to all, all night? Or Leaders Gardens? Or a cemetery? I’m really not.

 All the points above have been put to the council. Despite approving the cut, they have been unable to answer any of the questions. They’ve won no assurances. And yet councillors decided to press ahead without knowing the answers or having the full picture. Doesn’t Putney have a high enough crime rate already without adding parks to the problem? Send me to the Town Hall and I’ll ask the tough questions and won’t give any measure my vote until I’ve been given a satisfactory answer. That in itself will be a change for Putney