Cuts to the Metropolitan Police could “tear the heart out of neighbourhood policing” in Islington, according to Paul Convery, Executive Member for Community Safety.
Next month’s Government Spending Review is expected to announce cuts of at least 22 percent to the Met’s budget over the next four years.
In preparation for this, proposals are being outlined by the police force to reduce the number of Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) to just one per ward.
Cllr Convery told Islington Now: “The compromise decision being outlined by the [Metropolitan Police’s] Management Board will mean Islington losing somewhere in the region of 30 and 40 PCSOs and leaving us with just 16.
“Our neighbourhood policing will be substantially eroded if these cuts are to be made.”
Initial proposals announced back in September to cut all 1,017 PCSOs from the Met provoked outcry from the public and borough councils, prompting the Met to delay an official decision until late this November.
Cllr Convery explained that senior officers now face three options: to proceed with the proposals announced in September; to retain the existing structure; or to retain just one dedicated PCSO in each London ward – which he believes is the most likely outcome.
The cuts to community policing come as Islington sees the biggest crime increase of any London borough over the past year, with a 12.1 percent rise in crime between August 2014 and August 2015.
Convery said that Islington’s high crime levels had prompted a “firm reaction” from the council to the proposed cuts to the Safer Neighbourhoods scheme.
“PCSOs in Islington offer continuity. Most of them have been patrolling and looking after their wards for around seven years. In Met time frames that represents remarkable stability,” said Cllr Convery.
“It’s that eyes and ears role that PCSOs provide that is so vital for Islington. The cuts would take a big slice from our neighbourhood policing.”
An Islington PCSO, who asked not to be named, told Islington Now that they were likely to lose their job when an official decision is reached in December.
“Getting rid of us will mean no uniform officers patrolling the streets,” the PCSO said.
“That familiar face will disappear from the community and police will only attend when they are called.”
According to Commander Lucy D’Orsi, who is responsible for borough policing across East London, “PCSOs have been an integral part of the Safer Neighbourhoods model from the start.
“But the financial pressures our force is facing means that we have a duty to consider all options available in order to meet those challenges.”
In an official statement released on 22 October, Detective Chief Superintendent Catherine Roper, Borough Commander of Islington, said: ‘Police in Islington will continue its aim of delivering the highest possible standards of service.
“This includes how we care for our victims, how we engage with our communities, and our robust stance on tackling criminality and bringing offenders to justice.
“These remain the highest priorities, and will continue to be so as the future financial picture becomes clearer. It is quite right that we deliver the best possible service in an efficient way, and therefore reviews of how we deliver policing are part of that.”
Photo credit: May Bulman