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.
Two years ago, Cllr Paul Kohler won his court case to stop the Mayor of London closing Wimbledon Police Station.
Today he has some further good news. Paul said:
"I was contacted by the BCU commander Sally Benatar today and told that Wimbledon Police Station has been chosen as the site for a combined emergency response unit covering Merton & Wandsworth.
"This is brilliant news following the success of our legal action to prevent the station’s closure.
"And whilst it doesn’t guarantee the station’s long term future it is another positive sign that the operational arguments we have pursued for last 3 years are winning through. It also means Wimbledon’s 24 hour front desk, which was only saved because of our legal action, remains open."
Time to give Wimbledon “peace of mind” over police station, Mayor told
Two years after it was saved from closure by a court case, local Liberal Democrat councillors are looking to force the Mayor of London to admit defeat and confirm that Wimbledon Police Station is safe.
The councillors – including Wimbledon Lib Dem Parliamentary spokesperson Paul Kohler, who led the successful court case blocking the Mayor’s plans to close Wimbledon Police Station back in 2018 – are presenting a motion at today’s (Wednesday 5 February) Merton Council meeting which, if voted through, would require the Council to write to the Mayor formally asking him to confirm that the police station will not be sold, and that its long term future is now secure.
Yesterday evening (Wednesday 29 January) Labour's Leonie Cooper, the London Assembly Member (LAM) for Merton & Wandsworth, stated "[t]here is no plan to close Wimbledon Police Station" and went on to suggest its long term future is now secure.
She made the comments during her annual report to the Wimbledon Community Forum when she was discussing the Mayor of London's answers to questions submitted by members of the London Assembly.
Paul Kohler, the Lib Dem Parliamentary spokesperson for Wimbledon responded:
"I was delighted to hear Leonie suggest that Wimbledon Police Station is safe, following my successful legal action that kept the station open by reversing Sadiq Khan's decision to close it in 2018. Caroline Pidgeon, the Lib Dem member on the London Assembly, is now seeking formal confirmation that this is indeed the case.
"Local Conservatives have repeatedly attempted to talk down the importance of the court case in saving our police station despite the reprieve we earned giving time for the incoming Borough Commander, Chief Superintendent Sally Benatar to recommend keeping the station.
"By taking the Mayor of London to court we retained a fully functioning police station in the heart of Wimbledon. This is in contrast to 36 other stations across the capital that Sadiq Khan also decided to shut, that have now been sold, moth balled or otherwise had their front desks closed, so that members of the public can no longer use them to report crime."
Paul Kohler selected as Lib Dem parliamentary candidate for Wimbledon
The man who led the successful legal challenge against the proposed closure of Wimbledon Police Station has been selected by the Lib Dems as their candidate to be the next MP for Wimbledon.
Cllr Paul Kohler, the Lib Dem councillor for Trinity Ward, hit the headlines last year when he took the Mayor of London to court over the decision to close Wimbledon Police Station. Cllr Kohler’s case was successful and the closure was halted, pending reconsideration by the Mayor.
The police station campaign helped Cllr Kohler win election in May 2018 as a councillor for Trinity ward in Wimbledon – an election which saw the Lib Dems surge from fourth place to first, almost tripling their vote share.
“It is a privilege to have been selected to contest the next general election as the Lib Dem candidate for Wimbledon”, said Cllr Kohler. “My wife and I have lived in this constituency, where we raised our four daughters, for almost 30 years. I want to give something back to the community that has been so supportive to us.
“People in Wimbledon deserve better than the current Conservative MP, who has repeatedly broken his election promise to oppose a hard Brexit by failing to vote to rule out a No Deal Brexit. Meanwhile Labour’s candidate is a Jeremy Corbyn cheerleader who shares his hostility to the EU.
“There is huge appetite for change amongst the voters of Wimbledon who have had enough of both Tory mismanagement in government and Labour mismanagement on the council. I will stand up for our public services where our current Tory MP has failed to do so; I will fight to stop Brexit and keep Britain in the EU; and I will strive to give a voice to Wimbledon residents who demand better from their government and their MP.”
Following last year’s local elections the Lib Dems are now the second party in Wimbledon, and Cllr Kohler issued a rallying cry to voters who want a fresh start for their area. “If I get the same swing in the next general election as I achieved in winning my council ward last year, the Lib Dems will win Wimbledon”, he said. “If you share my vision for a fair, free and tolerant Wimbledon then I urge you join my campaign. Together we can win in Wimbledon.”
Want to help Paul Kohler win in Wimbledon? Join his campaign today.
The Mayor of London has admitted that police response times have fallen dramatically across Merton following the merger of its police teams with those in neighbouring boroughs.
In figures supplied to Liberal Democrat Councillor Paul Kohler late last year, in the 4 months before the merger, response times across Merton for the most serious 999 calls averaged 9 minutes 30 seconds. In the four months after the merger this deteriorated by over 50% to an average of 15 minutes 15 seconds. Calls in this category require response within 15 minutes.
There was an even more dramatic decrease in response times for the second highest priority of 999 calls. In the four months before the merger, response times averaged 38 minutes 6 seconds. In the four months after the merger this more than tripled to an average of 1 hour 59 minutes. Calls in this category require a response within 1 hour.
Cllr Paul Kohler said:
"I am appalled by this dramatic fall in response times following the merger. The police officers who saved me arrived within 8 minutes, and I fear after seeing these figures I would be dead if the attack happened now."
"I am amazed that the Mayor is even considering closing Wimbledon police station after this news; let alone that he is planning to make his decision without even re-consulting despite the dramatic fall in response times that has occurred since the last consultation ended."
The High Court has today quashed the decision by the London Mayor to close Wimbledon police station in a ruling that was critical
of his entire consultation into the closing of 37 police stations across the capital.
In today’s judgment, Lord Justice Lindblom and Mr Justice Lewis stated that:
“The consultation process in this case was not conducted well. Both the content and the structure of the consultation document were unsatisfactory. It was markedly less helpful than such documents should be if they are to achieve their purpose in informing a decision on a matter of great significance for a large number of people – here the entire population of the metropolis. The internal documents prepared for meetings had omissions and contained errors. The summary of the consultation responses was not adequate. That is all the more surprising given the importance of the issue –policing and public safety in London.”
In the case of Wimbledon police station this included a failure to properly consider the submission of Merton Liberal Democrats that it was premature to take a decision to close Wimbledon police station, and that any decision to do so should be postponed pending an evaluation of the impact of new technology.
In the opinion of the High Court this was a material matter and the failure to consider it amounted to a clear error of law. In their judgment Lord Justice Lindblom and Mr Justice Lewis conclude: “The decision to close the Wimbledon police station is… unlawful and cannot be allowed to stand.”
The court also accepted that the point made by Merton Liberal Democrats – that it was premature to take a decision to close Wimbledon police station until a proper assessment had been made of the impact of the introduction of new technology – could have been made in respect of other police stations.
However, in the absence of evidence that it was, the court was not prepared to quash the decision to close the other police stations.
Cllr Paul Kohler commented:
“I am delighted that the High Court agreed with me in holding that the Mayor of London’s entire consultation was unsatisfactory. In the words of the judgment the initial consultation document was ‘incoherent and unhelpful’; the internal documents used by the Mayor’s office ‘had omissions and contained errors’; and the summary of the consultation responses was ‘not adequate’. As the judges said this is ‘all the more surprising given the importance of the issue –policing and public safety in London.’
“In the circumstances, especially after yesterday’s news detailing the increase in crime, particularly violent crime, across the capital, I hope the Mayor of London will take this opportunity to consider the matter afresh and revisit his decision to close all 37 police stations. In light of the High Court’s finding that it was a material consideration I ask, in particular, that he recognizes the strength of Merton Lib Dems’ submission, that it is premature to make an irreversible decision to close so many police stations before the impact of new technology on community policing has been assessed.
“More broadly I ask him to recognise how important a meaningful consultation is to our democracy. I am not saying I have all the answers and the Mayor of London is always wrong, but I am imploring him to recognize his plans can only be enhanced by adopting a more imaginative response to the funding crisis facing the Met.
“On a personal level I am obviously pleased that the High Court has quashed the decision to close Wimbledon police station and only sorry we did not have similar evidence in respect of the other police stations. Now the court has confirmed that the decision to close it was unlawful, I respectfully ask the Mayor to address the concerns of Merton Lib Dems, that were ignored in the original consultation, and recognize it would be premature to close Wimbledon police station before there has been time to assess the impact of new technology.”
Tessa Gregory a partner at the law firm Leigh Day who represented Cllr Kohler in the judicial review stated:
“Our client is delighted that the court has today quashed the decision of the Mayor’s Office to close and sell his local police station in Wimbledon. Whilst the court did not consider it had the necessary evidence to quash the decision to close other police stations across London, it was highly critical in its judgment of the way in which the whole consultation was conducted.
“The judges noted that these failings were particularly surprising given the importance of the issue: the policing and public safety of the capital. Our client hopes that the Mayor will take time to humbly reflect on the comments made by the court and reconsider his decision. Londoners deserve better.”
Policing in Merton is about to be hit by a triple whammy: we could be losing Wimbledon Police Station, our borough commander and at least 15% of Merton's police officers.
Councillor Paul Kohler is taking the Mayor to court to overturn his decision to close Wimbledon Police station, and last week he submitted a motion to Merton Council calling for a cross party working group to be established to urgently consider all aspects of policing in the borough. Whatever the outcome of the legal case, the working group would have provided a critical opportunity to determine how the borough is going to address the various threats currently confronting policing in Merton.
Unfortunately neither Labour nor the Conservatives supported the motion. Both argued that the Council’s existing mechanisms are sufficient, even though the borough has been unable to prevent any of the cuts in policing that have occurred so far.
Speaking after the Council meeting Cllr Paul Kohler said:
"I am at a loss to understand how both the governing Labour party and the official Tory opposition can be so complacent, particularly on such an important issue as crime and safety in the borough.
The council has to start taking law and order seriously, yet nether Labour, nor the Conservatives, show any genuine interest or concern. Time for a fresh start on policing in Merton. "