On 27 November we attended a Q&A with the Borough Commander, Chief Superintendent John Sutherland (JS) at the Dulwich Community Council. A number of key points were taken from the meeting.
1. Councillor questions focused on the future of the Seeley Drive base in Kingswood Estate, East Dulwich police station & the Safer Neighbourhood Teams (SNTs), and concerns about public confidence in local police & the consultation process.
2. The impact of widespread geography and poor transport links in Dulwich on policing were highlighted and councillors robustly reiterated the need for a police base serving Dulwich Village, East Dulwich and parts of the Peckham Rye ward.
3. JS insisted that he wants an “honest mature conversation” about changes in policing and said no decisions have been made about the future of frontline desks. The final decision about premises rests with the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) who own the police estate.
4. The Met Police has to make over £540m savings by 2015. The vast majority of budget comprises salary and there will inevitably be consequences for employees as well as premises. The savings are non-negotiable and have to happen. The question is how – what are the best options to maintain frontline services?
5. JS said there were no plans to close down the Seeley Drive base. The lease runs to 2019 with a break clause at 2014. On further questioning, he said there was no plan to close it in 2014 and currently he would make a bid to retain it. JS said there was no point in retaining it if it’s not an operational base, and in his opinion it is operational and fit for purpose. The police teams will be physically based there (i.e. start and end shifts there) and while there are some constraints on space, it’s operational and properly fitted out with appropriate IT and security.
6. JS repeated earlier views of Met Police professionals that this is not the case with East Dulwich police station which is neither economically viable nor operationally necessary. Footfall is very low and it is not fit for purpose. It would need a major reinvestment to render it operable by modern standards and the reality is that it is likely to close.
7. Councillors raised the question of an alternative police base, possibly at the East Dulwich hospital but JS reminded that this was more complicated than it appears because of the overheads involved in fitting out a building to operate as an equipped secure police base.
8. The local policing model, the SNTs will remain and there is strong support for the SNTs.
9. The consultation on premises and policing proposal timetable is as follows:
- London-wide briefing to senior stakeholders (MPs , Borough Chief Execs) to complete this week
- MOPAC will collate feedback and input from 32 Borough Commanders and stakeholders to deliver a proposal by Christmas.
- Public Consultation will start in January 2013.
- MOPAC decision by end March 2013.