London

Met's community policing review prompts fears of cuts

Scotland Yard is consulting on proposals that could reduce the number of officers involved in community policing across London.

The Met is reviewing the location, function and structure of Safer Neighbourhoods Teams in response to public sector funding cuts.

The review seeks to offer boroughs more flexibility, but one area is expecting the number of sergeants to be halved.

It is expected that the review will be concluded by the spring.

In the north of Westminster borough there are 14 electoral wards each with six officers.

The Metropolitan Police are looking at merging wards into five bigger districts and pooling the officers available.

These proposals would result in a 50% reduction in the number of sergeants, leaving those remaining responsible for policing a wider area.

Quieter districts of Westminster are concerned that they will be neglected under the new arrangements.

Elizabeth Virgo, chairwoman of the Safer Neighbourhoods Panel in Maida Vale, warned losing the area's two police constables and a sergeant would put at risk local knowledge built up over a four year period.

"I think it's being done for financial reasons," she said.

Karen Buck, Labour MP for Westminster North, said: "Safer neighbourhood policing is popular, it works, it's good and we need to keep it as it is."

Kit Malthouse, the Conservative deputy mayor responsible for policing, said his commitment to the teams was "unshakeable".

Mr Malthouse claimed the majority of £170m savings needed would come out of back office staff, computers, cars and buildings.

He added: "What we want to look at is minimising the number [of sergeants] who manage and get more out onto the streets where they can serve the public."

'Remain committed'

Safer Neighbourhoods teams were set up seven years ago.

A Met spokesman said: "We remain committed to maintaining a Safer Neighbourhoods policing model.

"However, in the light of our duty to respond to fiscal challenges, we are in the middle of a review that is looking to build whilst improving efficiency."

The review is expected to conclude in March or April.

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