Wimbledon resident and local campaigner Paul Kohler gives a summary of the public meeting on Tuesday 26 September:
"I just wanted to write to you with some info from tonight’s public meeting about the plans from the Mayor of London to close Wimbledon Police Station.
Under the proposals around half London's police stations - including Wimbledon's - would be shut down and the land sold off. This would mean there was no 24 hour base for police in Wimbledon town centre.
Tonight there was a consultation on “public access to the police”, held in Wimbledon Chase Primary School.
What we found out from the Met and Mayor’s representatives
- This is a purely “financially driven decision” (according to the Deputy Mayor for policing). Selling Wimbledon Police Station could raise up to £9million, with £500,000 a year operating costs saved. The Met police are looking to save at least £400million overall.
- The decision by the Mayor to cut the number of police stations to one per borough is driven by cuts to police budgets at a Government level. The representatives of the local police spoke about putting “police before bricks”, but they also said that this money won’t mean there will be more police officers.
- It’s accepted that, at peak times especially, “it’s challenging [for the police] to get across the borough”. The argument was that driving from Mitcham police station, the police should be able to provide “at least a comparable service” to now. There was also much talk of giving police officers tablets/laptops/mobile computers so that they didn’t need to return to base to fill in records after an arrest.
- Merton’s Borough commander admitted that Wimbledon probably needed a significant police base.
What residents said
- Love Wimbledon, which supports town centre businesses, said the business community were "absolutely opposed" to the closure of the police station in Wimbledon.
- The former police chief constable of Kent asked how the plans supported confidence in the police, and questioned whether the plans actually planned for the future needs of the police or the community.
- Labour’s Deputy Mayor for policing feels that the current buildings “aren’t properly used”. She also said there was lots and lots of uncertainty about Government funding for police.
- Residents questioned police response times, the value of the buildings and the proposed savings, and the lack of clarity and imagination in the alternative plans.
What the local Lib Dems said
- I challenged the panel about the “pinch points” – Wimbledon is the major transport hub in the borough, and has the biggest “night time economy”. Wimbledon hosts the tennis championships and AFC Wimbledon will soon return to Plough Lane. I also spoke about response times and the delays that would inevitably arise getting police backup to major local incidents.
- Simon McGrath questioned the Met’s representatives about the financial savings of closing Wimbledon police station, and the operating costs of the expanded Mitcham police station, and whether any thought had been given to alternative uses for under-used parts of Wimbledon and Mitcham police stations, generating a rental income and maintaining a base in both towns (no, sadly not). He also asked about the timetable for making the decision (no timeframes on closures yet, although the initial consultation ends on 6 October).
- Anthony Fairclough highlighted that the emphasis on giving police officers tablets/laptops etc, so they didn’t need to return to base very often, suggested that the Met police recognised that having only one police station would result in lots of wasted time for officers traveling across the borough. He challenged the assumption that giving officers a computer or mobile phone would be enough without proper IT support, and asked what the plans were for the “local hubs” where police would be based.
- At the Council meeting on 13 September, Lib Dem Councillor Mary-Jane Jeanes supported a Council response calling for the police bases in both Wimbledon and Mitcham to be kept open, asking the Mayor to reconsider any plans to sell off either police station.
What you can do now
- Sign our petition www.SaveWimbledonPoliceStation.org.uk – ours is the only petition that recognises that Government funding is as big of an issue as decisions by the Mayor. We will be submitting it as part of our consultation response and using it to put pressure on Wimbledon’s MP to stand up to Government on this issue.
- Tell the Mayor what you think of his plans by emailing [email protected] by 6 October. There's also a consultation document here.
- Help our campaign by displaying a poster or delivering some leaflets near you: sign up here.
All best wishes
On behalf of the Merton Liberal Democrats Focus teams
www.mertonlibdems.org.uk : @mertonlibdems