Bexley Police left short-handed, says council leader
PUBLISHED: 15:56 25 April 2019
Stretched police are scrapping tasking teams in a bid to fill summer vacancies, a council leader has said.
It comes just weeks after one of south east London's top officers said joining up Lewisham, Greenwich and Bexley's units had left police stretched.
Now the move to scrap neighbourhood tasking teams has been criticised by Bexley Council leader Teresa O'Neill, who said: “This is watering down services.”
At a council meeting last week, the leader revealed that tasking teams are to be disbanded temporarily in each borough to plug vacancies.
It's understood teams of one sergeant and 10 officers, introduced when boroughs merged together into new policing units last year, are being lost to fill team job gaps over the summer.
Cllr O'Neill said the merger had led to problems during its first few months.
She said: “Certainly we had a lot of teething troubles to start off with around incident notification.
“The police could not get on top of who they had to tell when once something happened. We as a council have ended up taking that over, they tell one person and that information is disseminated – watering down of a service.
“Today, we heard that the Neighbourhood Tasking Teams are to be disbanded. Whether it's going to be permanent or temporary we don't know, but the result is we lose an important resource.
“It's a shame – we will be fighting back. It plays into the Mayor of London downgrading services.
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“It's definitely a retrospective step for Bexley and it's unfortunate.”
It was also revealed that Safer Neighbourhood Panel Meetings have been “downgraded” to only having a community support officer.
“They've been downgraded to only having a PCSO at them because 'they could be a waste of time',” the leader claimed.
“These are volunteers and our residents putting in their time to work with police and it seems terrible that their resource isn't being taken for what it is.”
At a meeting on April 3, Simon Dobinson, who heads up south-east London's Borough Command Unit (BCU), told councillors the BCU has 100-odd fewer police officers because of “funding requirements”.
He said: “Within that I have 91 vacancies, within that I have 57 cops restricted from operational work. I have a 6per cent sickness rate, officers connected to operations elsewhere in London.
“The reality is we are playing in the Premier League, we need a squad of 15, starting with 11 – we can put nine on the field and everyone needs to be a striker and a defender and a goalkeeper.”
Mr Dobinson said the BCU has brought specialist policing, such as serious sexual offences and child abuse, back to a local level – but officers are being put under more pressure to step in on incidents that they're not suited for.
He said frontline officers are now being better trained in investigation skills to take on more crimes rather than pass it on to specialists.
Speaking when the controversial tri-borough merger was rolled out across London in February last year, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said: “I want to reassure Londoners that the new units have been designed with their safety as the absolute priority.
“That is why they have been tested since January 2017 and they will only be taken forward in a measured way.
“The new units will be designed for every area of London in order to meet the needs of local people and tackle local priorities.”
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