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Last updated: January 9, 2013 10:22 pm
Scotland Yard is to sell off a third of its real estate across London and will test a system of police contact points in Post Offices to compensate for the closure of counters in local stations, under an austerity plan unveiled on Wednesday.
The four-year financial strategy will aim to save £500m from the £3.6bn annual budget in order to meet government-mandated cuts. All the UK’s 43 forces are having to make significant savings, but the Metropolitan Police must do so while maintaining a pledge by Boris Johnson, London mayor, to keep 32,000 officers on the streets.
The force has already announced it will try to sell its landmark New Scotland Yard headquarters in central London and move to a smaller building nearby on Curtis Green.
However, the proposals published on Wednesday – which will be subject to a two-month consultation – include plans to cut the number of police buildings from 500 to about 300, as well as selling other real estate such as garages, car parks and boat yards. Reducing the total property footprint from 900,000 sq m to 600,000 sq m is projected to save £60m in running costs.
Part of the property sell-off will involve closing almost half of the capital’s 136 “front counters” in police stations where the public can go to report crime. Stephen Greenhalgh, the deputy mayor for policing, said a pilot programme to establish a presence in Post Offices would begin in six months’ time.
“The Post Office has benefited from a lot of capital money from government to keep branches open,” Mr Greenhalgh said. “In theory, Post Offices could provide a fixed point on the high street, with some branding with the Metropolitan Police Service, where you could potentially bring your lost property ... and even very simple crime reporting potentially could be done,” he added.
Alternative options include points in council buildings and libraries.
Other cost-saving measures will include cutting the number of senior officers across the force by a third, and dropping the number of supervisors. Conversely, the number of constables will increase over 1,000 to more than 25,000 by 2015.
To boost the local policing presence, each London borough will have a sheriff-type figure who will lead the constables and be accountable to the community. In addition, 800 detectives are to be moved from specialist squads to neighbourhood teams, where they will work in uniform.
Explaining this change, Simon Byrne, an assistant commissioner, described some detectives as “just constables who wear jeans and a T-shirt”, pointing out that their level of expertise was not the same as that of trained investigators.
But despite the focus on community policing, David Lammy – MP for Tottenham in North London, where riots flared in the summer of 2011 – described the plans to abolish round-the-clock access to some local police stations as “cack-handed and wrong-headed”.
● The Independent Police Complaints Commission is mulling over whether to investigate Scotland Yard following claims that the brother of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence has been subjected to racial harassment by officers. Stuart Lawrence, whose brother Stephen was killed in a race attack more than 20 years ago, told a newspaper that police had stopped and searched him more than 25 times in recent years for no reason, except the colour of his skin.
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