The police have been “substantially stretched” across south east London after Greenwich, Lewisham and Bexley borough divisions were merged due to cost cuts last November.
Until November 2018 each borough had a dedicated number of officers, command structure and vehicles with officers now covering a wider area.
Extensive cuts to police funding after 2010 under Teresa May as Home Secretary hit forces across the country. In London the Met saw cuts of £700 million and responded by closing and selling numerous police stations.
Once that avenue was almost exhausted the next stage was merging borough police to save £325 million. Despite a number of issues in trials the practice was adopted across the capital last November.
Barking and Dagenham was one such trial area and after merging response times increased. Barking leader Darren Rodwell stated the police were “unable to provide proactive and visible policing at this moment in time”. Performance did later improve after moving back to a system similar to what had existed previously.
On the flipside some benefits are noted since changes last November particularly in cross-border areas. Abbey Wood is one such place that had the borough boundary running right down the middle of Wilton Road shopping parade.
The Government has recently argued that cuts have halted. However they fund 76% of the total police budget and have instead pushed much of the increase this year onto council tax payers instead of using general taxation. That helps explain the 8% increase in GLA council tax precept beginning today. This transfer of funding is occurring across England and not just London.
The increase in direct funds from the Home Office is expected to be entirely swallowed up by pension changes enforced by the Treasury.