Scotland Yard Fire Sale: £125 million for your safety?


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Joanne McCartney, London Assembly member for Enfield and Haringey and Chair of the Police and Crime Committee, is a single voice against the heavy current of support for the recent sale of 35 properties owned and operated by the Metropolitan Police. Taking advantage of London’s property boom, Scotland Yard raked in £124.5 million from the sale, which included 20 police stations.


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Outlined in the latest report from the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC), this push to “shrink and remodel the police estate in London” came in the wake of a strong public mandate for strengthening the police force over maintaining police property. As such, Scotland Yard put the hammer to police stations in Clapham, Hackney, Richmond Upon Thames and Westminster to name a few, with plans to close as many as 63 of the 136 police stations operating in London, in exchange for which the public will be serviced by 115 new public contact points and a dedicated 24/7 station for every borough. The revenue is to be invested in frontline policing, IT infrastructure and maintaining the 32,000 officer strong police force.

 

 

The properties themselves are to be repurposed into new housing developments and schools as well as a medical facility and a shopping centre. These projects are expected to create 2000-3000 new jobs and £1 million in council tax. As part of Mayor Boris Johnson’s 3-year MOPAC/MPS Estate Strategy, these sales have been a real coup for his administration, saying: “I pledged to deliver savings from the police estate in the face of unprecedented budget pressures and without compromising on resourcing for frontline policing […] we are freeing up tens of millions of pounds to maintain our police officer numbers and generate savings for the future.” Stephen Greenhalgh, Deputy Mayor for Policing echoed the Mayor’s remarks, describing the capital gains as a “once in a generation opportunity to equip our police with modern mobile technology needed for 21st century policing.”

 

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However, not everyone was so rhapsodic about this venture, fearing it would lead to a loss of touch between the police and the public. Speaking to the Standard, Joanne McCartney, Assembly member for the Labour Party, commented: “Boris says this money is going into front line policing, but police numbers are going down. Since 2010 we have seen a reduction of nearly 5000 uniforms in our neighbourhoods, violent crime is rising and the public are reporting that they feel a reduced police presence on our streets.” McCartney went on to describe the alternatives being offered as “[…] underfunded, ineffective and in some cases non-existent. This is not the ‘equivalent or better service’ Boris promised Londoners.”
 
 
 
The public’s call for bobbies over buildings has been controversial to be sure, but with the growing consensus being that police presence on the streets is sorely lacking, it may be time to let go of these redundant trappings if it means more safety where we need it most.
 
 
 
 
 
 


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