Karen Buck MP

Working tirelessly for Westminster North

December E-news from Karen Buck MP

Boris Johnson and Met Police consulting on massive programme of police station closures

The Metropolitan Police service is under huge financial pressure, and must save £500 million out of its £3.6 billion base budget by 2014.

The suggestion is to get rid of around one-third of the buildings/space the Met occupies. Many boroughs are being advised that there will only be 1 24-hour station in each area, althoughWestminster is expected to keep more than one.

The Deputy Commissioner has said:

We are considering reducing up to 65 front counters and replacing them with over 200 contact points in popular locations such as community centres, supermarkets and shared local authority buildings. Every borough will maintain one police station open 24/7.

As of earlier this year, Westminster was served by the following:

- Belgravia: 24 hours.
- Marylebone: 24 hours.
- Charing Cross: 24 hours.
- Paddington: 24 hours.
- Harrow Road: 24 hours.
- West End Central: 24 hours.
- St John's Wood: 9am - 5pm Monday - Friday

Since then, Marylebone and St John's Wood stations have closed to the public (and, in the case of St John's Wood, without any effective prior consultation).

As at least one station will obviously have to be maintained in the West End, the concern is that either, or possibly both of, Paddington Green and Harrow Road stations will close.
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It is obviously reasonable, over time to review the police estate, especially as fewer people are visiting stations in person as more are making contact on-line. It is also sensible, where possible, for public services to look to share premises .But, because the police, council and NHS are all under pressure and out-of-step with each other co-operation is not as easy to do as it should be.

I would certainly not oppose all change, if proper alternative provision were made and any money saved was used to keep up police strength and did not reduce response times.

However:

• We need to know exactly what we are being consulted on. Is the intention to close either or both of Harrow Road and Paddington Green stations? If so would this mean the entire station or just the public access counter? This has not been spelt out.

• What impact would the loss of access to Harrow Road station have on a deprived community with a high level of social stress? We have been fighting for ten years to clear up the drug dealing and anti-social behaviour around the Prince of Wales junction, and there is a real risk that the loss of police presence in the area would set this back.

• Similarly, would the closure of Paddington Green impact upon Church Street, Little Venice and the Edgware Road, which are also areas of high mobility and stress?

• At present, there is no custody suite in the north of the borough, requiring police to travel to the south after each arrest, with all the travelling time this implies. What guarantees can the Met give about the impact on response times and the extra time it takes police to travel across Westminster each time they have to take someone to the custody suite?

• If there is a plan to introduce new police contact points to offset counter closures at either of these stations, how many and where? Have negotiations been entered into to secure these premises?

On top of this massive programme of station closures, emergency services are being cut back in many other areas too:

• London Ambulance Service will lose £53million (19% of its budget) by 2015/16, resulting in 890 job cuts. 560 of which will be frontline staff
• We have already lost over 1,900 police officers in London, including half our SNT sergeants
• London is losing seven A&E departments
• And 31 fire stations are at risk of closure.

I am writing to protest about the inadequacy of this consultation, and to make these points about station/counter closures, but I would very much welcome your comments or questions. You may also want to make your own representations

Jubilee Sports Centre Closure

As you know, Westminster Council took the decision to go ahead with the closure of the Jubilee Sports Centre in order to upgrade the Moberley Centre- although this must still go through the planning process.

Thanks to the massive campaign against the loss of facilities at the Jubilee, the Council have agreed to build a new community sports facility on the Jubilee site and to upgrade the Games Area at Queens Park Gardens to allow for increased and more varied use.

This does not meet the objections of most of the campaigners but it is better than losing a facility at the Jubilee entirely.

However, there are many other concerns which still have to be addressed:

• The impact on Queen's Park Gardens
• How the needs of the sporting community (and specifically footballers) can be reconciled with the interests of other park users and more casual play.
• The importance of providing an open access space on the Mozart estate itself to replace the basketball court
• How the Jubilee replacement will be funded to ensure it doesn't stand empty for lack of revenue
• Whether the buildings/gardens currently occupied by the Ark Atwood school can be brought into the wider scheme after the school moves to its permanent base.

The first Project Engagement Committee meeting took place on the 19th November and local campaigners, councillors and I are remaining closely involved with thrashing out the details. Again, your comments are very welcome.

Tell me your views:

• Please don't forget to respond to my survey on the impact of basement excavations!. Although this issue only affects parts of Bayswater/Lancaster Gate and St John's Wood, for those people who find themselves in the middle of such developments the effect on their lives can be horrendous

• Please complete my survey on the Harrow Road and local environment. Cllr Dimoldenberg, your Westbourne, Harrow Road and Queen's Park councillors and I are working together to get a better picture of concerns about the physical environment, community safety and the shopping outlets along the Harrow Road so we can discuss with Westminster Council and other agencies what improvements can be made, and whether planning and other powers could be better used to improve the quality of life in the area.

Here is the link: to the basement survey and the link to the survey for the Harrow Road.

And finally: May I also take this opportunity to wish you a very Happy Christmas and New Year

Yours sincerely

Karen Buck MP

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