Wimbledon Police Station's Long-Term Future.
Following our successful Judicial Review, Wimbledon Police Station's future is currently guaranteed until 2023; but not beyond. We have raised its long-term future, on a number of occasions, with our excellent Borough Commander, Chief Superintendent Lis Chapple, who is completely supportive but has emphasised the final decision is up to the Mayor of London. We have also raised it with him directly, on more than one occasion, via Lib Dem Assembly Member Caroline Pidgeon.
Unfortunately, both the Mayor and his Deputy, who runs the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC), have repeatedly refused to give any commitments beyond next year. To add to our concerns, the latest draft of the Mayor's new Police & Crime Plan, includes proposals to further reduce the Met's estate, with obvious potential implications for the future of Wimbledon Police Station.
In the recent consultation on the new plan Merton Lib Dems worked with Merton Council's Safer Merton team to ensure their submission included specific reference to retaining Wimbledon Police Station. We also submitted the following submission, which emphasises why police stations are critical to achieving the Mayor's policing priorities.
Police and Crime Plan 2021-25
Consultation response from Merton Liberal Democrats
1. As MOPAC will be aware, Merton Lib Dem’s submission to the Public Access & Engagement Draft Strategy for Consultation in 2017, was central to the subsequent judicial review, Kohler v MOPAC & Commissioner for Police  EWHC 1881, in which the High Court quashed the Mayor of London’s decision to close Wimbledon Police Station. Many of the points we made in that previous submission are equally relevant to this latest consultation and we formally ask MOPAC to include consideration of our previous submission as part of this consultation (available at www.mertonlibdems.org.uk/police_station_consultation).
2. Turning to the specifics of the current plan and the four priorities set out in section 4 (all of which we formally endorse), it is important to emphasise that police stations are a critical component in achieving these goals (as briefly indicated below). We strongly submit this is something to which MOPAC has failed to give due weight, in both the current draft plan and the previous strategy. An omission reflected in the actions and pronouncements of both the current Mayor of London and his immediate predecessor, Boris Johnson, both of whom closed approximately half the police stations operating in London, immediately prior to when each became Mayor.
• Reducing and preventing violence
A police station in the heart of the community demonstrably reduces both the number of violent crimes and their severity.
• Increasing trust and confidence
A police station, by its very purpose and physical presence, increases trust by bringing police officers into the heart of the community and reassuring the public that help is nearby.
• Better supporting victims
Both during the commission of a crime and subsequently, a police station within easy reach is critical in providing victims with the support they deserve.
• Protecting people from exploitation and harm
An open and accessible police station is an important place of safety for those, often the most vulnerable in society, seeking refuge.
3. In light of the above, we are very concerned about the potential negative consequences of plans to reduce the police estate, as discussed in para 9.2 of the plan, as this will inevitably lead to the loss of yet more police stations. As previously
indicated in our 2017 submission, we remain sceptical about the unproven assumption that the strategy of a single police station/24-7 front counter per borough is appropriate; particularly in a local authority like Merton with two very
distinct and separate conurbations. Following Cllr Kohler’s successful legal action, we have repeatedly sought assurances that Wimbledon Police Station will remain open, but have yet to receive confirmation that its long-term future, as a fully operational police station, is secure. This is despite various, welcome, statements by the Borough Commander, at Merton’s Overview and Scrutiny Commission, emphasising that Wimbledon Police Station is a critical element in her plans for both the borough andthe entire BCU.
4. Merton has one of the lowest crime rates in the MPS area, with excellent relations between the police and the various communities that make up our borough. This has given residents great confidence in their police force, who draw immense comfort from having a police station situated in the heart of the community; as evidenced by the huge public support for our campaign to save Wimbledon Police Station and the cross-party consensus that exists. This unanimity is also reflected in the fact Merton Lib Dems have worked closely with Merton Council, on their separate submission to this consultation, and we formally endorse their comments stressing the importance of maintaining Wimbledon Police station.
5. We firmly believe it would be a grave mistake to risk all that has been achieved in Merton, by irreversibly changing a demonstrably successful policing model, on little more than assertions and hunches, without a thorough, evidence-based analysis. We therefore ask MOPAC to finally confirm the long-term future of Wimbledon police station and bring an end to the doubt that is having a damaging effect on the local community, rank and file officers, the effective management of the BCU and even the fabric and effectiveness of a building where little maintenance, and no improvements, can be undertaken until its future is guaranteed.
Merton Lib Dems
21 January 2022