Greenwich Council has not objected to the closure of Eltham police station, which is set to be sold off as part of cutbacks at the Metropolitan Police.
The council’s response to a consultation on plans to reduce the number of police front counters in London asks for “more detail” about how the Met would address local residents’ concerns about the loss of the facility, but does not object to its closure.
Eltham is one of just two police stations left open in the borough following past rounds of cuts, and now only Plumstead is set to remain. Greenwich’s response to the consultation also asks how people who report crimes at stations in a different borough will be supported. The Met currently operates via borough teams, although a trial of merging these is currently under way.
In Lewisham borough, stations at Catford and Deptford are being closed, leaving Lewisham as the only police counter. Bexleyheath police station is also set for closure, with Bexley’s services being moved to Marlowe House, near Sidcup station – a proposal which Bexley Council launched a campaign against.
In practice, many residents in the west and south of Greenwich borough are likely to find Lewisham and Sidcup more convenient to reach than Plumstead.
The Mayor’s Office for Policing And Crime (MOPAC) says very few crimes are now reported at police counters, with Eltham recording just one report per day in May 2017, compared with 3.2 at Plumstead and 5.1 at Lewisham. London’s busiest police counter, Brixton, saw an average of 7.3 reports each day, according to MOPAC.
It also says £170 million could be raised by selling underused police stations, with the public encouraged to report crime online and by phone.
Greenwich’s response, signed by acting chief executive Debbie Warren, says: “We agree that the priority for the Metropolitan Police Service needs to be freeing up police officers for patrolling and being visible on the street as well as investigating crime and providing a suitable response to victims…
“However, we are concerned that the closure of more police stations limits the number of places where victims who prefer to report crimes face to face can do so easily.”
The response also raises concerns about the performance of the police’s 101 non-emergency phone line, as well as “misguided, if well-meaning messages” sent by local police officers on social media, with an offer of “assistance to such officers through our own staff and resources”.
It also offers the use of council premises as a base for local police officers, but “we would want to see these include a reporting service in those areas that are furthest from the police station at Plumstead”.
The response has been released following a clash between Eltham North Conservative councillor Spencer Drury and council cabinet member Jackie Smith at last Wednesday’s full council meeting.
Smith’s fellow Conservative, Charlie Davis, launched a petition against the station’s closure during the summer.
Drury said no Labour councillor had attended a consultation meeting about the closure, and asked why no councillor had put their name to the response. (Watch here, 33 minutes 40 seconds in.)
Smith, the cabinet member for community safety and environment, said no councillor had signed the response as it was not a “key decision”.
She added: “Are we concerned about closures of police stations? Yes we are. Are we going to lecture the police and the mayor of London on how they manage their budget cuts? No we’re not.
“Frankly, if the [Conservative] government put more money in, they might be ale to look at reopening Eltham police station. But my concern is about keeping residents safe, and safe from violent crime.”
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