Written Evidence submitted by Southwark Council (POP0037)

Executive Summary

1. As a major community safety partner to the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) and our local Basic Command Unit (BCU), Southwark Council believes that trust and confidence in the MPS has fallen in recent years because there is at present insufficient capacity within the MPS and within our local BCU to deliver effective local neighbourhood policing, or for the MPS to truly engage and communicate with our residents. This has happened as a result of reduced funding and personnel in both our police services and public services more widely –our Borough lost 400 officers between 2010 and 2016 and our ward police teams were reduced from 7 officers to 2-, as well as inadequate scrutiny mechanisms which do not effectively hold local police forces to account. Southwark Council has undertaken initiatives to increase trust and confidence in our police services and to open avenues for engagement between them and our residents, for example through the training of MPS officers in cultural competency in stop and search processes by Southwark’s Youth Independent Advisory Group (YIAG). It is vital that the MPS implements fundamental and meaningful changes to restore and improve neighbourhood policing by scaling up local ward teams and improving its communication with residents. Meanwhile, it is vital that wider public services are sufficiently funded to ensure MPS does not continue to be overstretched as a result of being responsible for responding to rising non-crime demand. We welcome some of our local police teams’ efforts to improve communication with residents and the MPS’ willingness to engage with our advisory teams of residents on issues such as stop and search, and we call on the MPS to build upon these pockets of good practice. Separately, methods of scrutiny which hold BCUs to account on a local level must be improved so that all of our diverse communities have trust in the MPS to keep them safe. 


2. Southwark Council is the local authority for the London Borough of Southwark, a densely populated and diverse inner London borough situated on the south bank of the River Thames, with Lambeth to the west and Lewisham to the east.

3. Southwark Council is committed to keeping our residents safe and to working with both the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) and our local communities to achieve this. Southwark Council has a good and constructive relationship with its local MPS Basic Command Unit, Central South BCU, and BCU Commander. Southwark Council currently works in a Community Safety Partnership (CSP) together with the MPS, the London Fire Brigade, Lambeth and South East London CCG to reduce crime, anti-social behaviour, fear of crime, and substance misuse. Southwark Council also works separately to strengthen relationships and collaboration between our residents and Central South BCU: Sitting in our Community Safety Team is the Southwark’s Youth Independent Advisory Group (YIAG), a diverse youth-led group of 30 trained professionals who are funded by the council's community safety team to ensure our police services are constructively challenged by our residents.

4. Southwark Council is pleased to have the opportunity to submit evidence to the Home Affairs Committee’s inquiry on Policing Priorities. Southwark Council has provided answers to Questions 4 and 5 which we hope will inform the Committee’s understanding of how reduced funding, the lack of capacity in neighbourhood policing and insufficient scrutiny has impacted trust and confidence in our local police services.

4. What can be done to improve community policing and increase trust in police officers and forces, including on funding and on disciplinary powers when police officer behaviour falls below required standards;


5. FUNDING Southwark Council believes that trust and confidence in MPS police officers, especially at a local ward level, has been greatly impacted by efficiency savings made necessary by Home Office funding reductions since 2010. The MPS lost over 3,000 police staff jobs between 2012 and 2016, resulting in a fall from 4.1 officers per 1,000 residents in 2010 to 3.3 per 1,000 in 2018.12 This meant that the MPS reduced net revenue expenditure per head of population from £423 in 2012/13 to £337 in 2016/17.3 The MPS also reduced the proportion of PCSOs (and other staff) in the neighbourhood workforce from 70 to 15 per cent from 2010-18.4

6. Having already delivered £720 million in efficiency savings since 2010, in 2018 the MPS was subject to a further efficiency measure.5 It moved from an existing model in which each of the 32 London Borough had its own coterminous BCU, to its current arrangement in which there are 12 BCUs for the whole of London, with individual BCUs having responsibility for multiple Boroughs and operating over far larger geographical areas of London. As of 2018, Southwark’s police services are delivered by Central South BCU, who are also responsible for policing in the neighbouring Borough of Lambeth.

7. Under the pre-2018 model of coterminous BCUs per Borough in which Southwark had its own BCU, Southwark Council believes there was more accountability on the MPS to maintain police services in the Borough of Southwark. For example, local Members of Parliament and councillors of different parties were active in supporting the Southwark Police 1,000 Campaign, a political campaign which started in 2002 with the aim of increasing the number of police officers in Southwark to 1,000.6 This stakeholder pressure was influential in the eventual meeting of this target, when police officer numbers in Southwark reached 1071 in January 2011. Since the introduction of multiple-Borough BCUs in 2018, there is a reduced ability locally to exert pressure to retain police services in Southwark.

8. In addition to the reform of the BCU system, underfunding within the MPS has also caused significant problems relating to capacity in neighbourhood policing, which has in reality ceased to function effectively.

9. We have seen these cuts borne out locally. In 2013, the MPS moved from a model of neighbourhood policing characterised by ‘ring-fenced’ ward teams, consisting of a sergeant, two constables and three PCs (with extra PCSOs in larger wards) to a new Local Policing Model. This change saw dedicated ward staffing trimmed to one PC and one PCSO, supported by a larger pool of more general resource.7 In 2010, Southwark had 957 police officers and 112 PSCOs.8 Between 2010 and 2014, police numbers in Southwark dropped by 20% (a loss of 194 officers) and by 2016, Southwark had lost 400 officers and PSCOs.9 Within these reductions, the number of PCSOs fell by 110, or 77 %, between 2010 and 2016.10 Following the introduction of the current BCU model in 2018, there are now 1617 police officers in Central South BCU.11 In terms of neighbourhood police teams, there are 45 Police Constables (PCs) and 18 PCSOs across Southwark’s 23 wards, an average of 2 PCs and 0.8 PCSOs per ward, a considerable reduction from Southwark previously having 7 officers and an inspector per ward. This has been compounded by the closure of our local police stations at Lower Road, Rotherhithe in 2017 and Wren Road, Camberwell in 2019.

10. Southwark Council is also concerned that the performance of the MPS is impacted by the rise of non-crime demand and the wider underfunding of vital public services, including adult mental health services, which do not have capacity to respond to rising demand for mental health support in our area (almost all mental health hospitals in London were at 100% occupancy between October and November 2021).12 In particular, the MPS is posed operational challenges by its need to prioritise the category 1 mental health-related calls, and the impact this has on its ability to respond to other calls. Over the last five years, the MPS has responded to 130,000 mental health related callouts, with 1,000 more mental health crisis situations being dealt with by the MPS in 2021, than in 2017, while it also saw a 40% increase in these calls between 2018 and December 2020.131415 Superintendent Dan Ivey of Central South BCU recently reported that, on a night shift in the summer of 2022, approximately 75-80% of officers' time was spent assisting ‘suicidal, despondent or mentally ill people’.16 We believe that effective funding of mental health services, the wider system of social care, welfare benefits and support, public health and the VCS, would serve to alleviate pressures on the MPS and policing more widely. The MPS’s performance is also challenged by entrenched funding issues in the criminal justice system which delay prosecution, lead to low conviction rates and perpetuate the causes of crime. It is shocking, but sadly not surprising, that in the year to September 2021, just 1.3% of rape cases recorded by police resulted in a suspect being charged (or receiving a summons), especially when the number of rapes in London rose by 19% in 2021.17

11. As a result of reduced officer numbers and increased workloads, we have seen a high turnover of frontline officers and PCSOs who are not capable of meeting the demands that this reduced capacity has placed on them. There was a 7% attrition rate of PCSO across the MPS in 2021/22, while in August 2022 21% of constables in Central South BCU had less than two years’ experience.18 This also means that talented police officers with exciting prospects within policing have left the MPS early due to burnout.

12. In order to tackle the compromises in policing this causes, the MPS should be funded to return to a model of Borough Command Units, with one BCU responsible for one Borough.


5. Specifically, what the Metropolitan Police must do to increase trust under its new Commissioner

13. TRUST AND CONFIDENCE – There has been a profoundly alarming decline in trust between the MPS and the communities it serves in recent years. This has been caused by a number of factors, including policing which has unfairly and disproportionately impacted particular residents and communities. While levels of trust have been too low among our black and ethnic minority communities for many years, we have recently seen a further deterioration in trust, as well as a rapid decline in levels of trust among women. This poses considerable challenges for the MPS to regain this trust. The shocking misconduct of some MPS officers, and the failure of the MPS to effectively respond to this, has done much to undermine confidence among our local residents and damage the reputation of the MPS in our area. Southwark Council notes the new MPS Commissioner’s response to Baroness Louise Casey’s interim report on misconduct and welcomes his commitment to reform the MPS’s culture, leadership and systems to address the deeply concerning problems identified. Meanwhile, the fear of racist discrimination, and falling trust and confidence in policing amongst our black and ethnic minority communities continues to be fuelled by the fact that black Londoners are 3.3% more likely to be stopped and searched than white residents, and results in an enduring perception that the MPS’ leadership has failed to tackle this discrimination. As of March 2022, just 57% of Londoners believe that the MPS can be ‘relied upon to be there when needed’ – down from 59% in the previous quarter, while on average, 62% of Londoners agreed the MPS ‘treats everyone fairly’ – down from 64% over the same period.19

14. In addition to this, trust and confidence is damaged by wider compromises that are necessary due to reduced funding and resources. Under the current model, the MPS is also challenged to allocate resources evenly throughout each BCU, including Central South BCU. Because Lambeth has a higher prevalence of serious harm crime - including firearm enabled violence - than the Borough of Southwark, this means that Southwark does not receive an equitable proportion of policing resources when compared to that given to Lambeth. The under-allocation of resources impacts the visibility of police services in Southwark and manifests itself in BCUs’ inability to effectively balance their response to the competing needs of policing ‘major’ issues like high harm crime and mental health-related callouts, and their response to more ‘minor’ crimes such as burglaries. In the period from January to December 2021, London had a sanction detection rate of just 3.8 per cent for residential burglaries.20 Public demand for the MPS to tackle these crimes is evident: In November 2021, Londoners’ most common local crime priorities selected were drugs, burglary and ASB, with around over 40% of residents placing these amongst their top three types of crime for the MPS to tackle.21 The MPS’ inability to do this, and the lower visibility it has as a result, impacts trust and confidence in policing locally, something the London Assembly’s recognised in its recent response to the Mayor of London’s Police and Crime Plan 2022-25, which outlined that ‘investigating these types of crimes is vital to increase trust and confidence in the Met Police’.22

15. We also believe that declining trust and confidence in Southwark is caused by the MPS’ reduced capacity to truly engage with our residents. High attrition rates and officer turnover rates mean that many of our residents don’t have familiarity with their local police officers, who are too often too overstretched to have a meaningful presence in their communities and to build relationships with residents. We are concerned that local policing teams therefore do not benefit from the contribution of the community in solving crimes, something we feel is of vital importance when the successful prosecution of criminals is so often a collective activity involving members of the public. The recent retirement of PC John Ajagun from Peckham Police Station in Central South BCU demonstrated the increasingly rare example, and significant value, of residents having longstanding relationships with their local police officers.23 Having served in Peckham for over twenty years, Mr Ajagun had built close ties with many residents and local neighbourhood campaign groups. Lucy Cope, a local resident who worked closely with John through her ‘Mother’s Against Guns’ campaign, described him as an ‘absolute credit to the MPS and our community’.24 The long-term relationship that PC John Ajagun had built with our local residents is vital for the functioning of neighbourhood policing and needs to be replicated across the MPS and across the UK.

16. Southwark Council welcomes recent increases in MPS officer numbers. However, it is crucial that the right officers are recruited to the MPS, with the right values, and that the high levels of turnover we have seen in recent years is reduced. Effective supervision and guidance for new officers is also important in developing skills of the new officers to overcome any performance challenges. Southwark Council is concerned that, due to the previously stated incapacity of neighbourhood policing, there is not capacity within local policing teams to deliver this supervision. This is also a side effect of the reduction in the numbers of Chief Inspectors in local wards.

17. In addition to the challenges posed by funding constraints, we know that trust and confidence in policing in Southwark is impacted because of our communities’ concern by the deployment of centralised MPS and Home Office police teams in our area, who do not have a local knowledge, are not aware of pre-existing tensions within the community, or not judged equipped to police in our Borough. Although trust levels vary between the centralised forces who are deployed – the Violent Crime Task Force for example is more trusted than other officer teams -, when trust in police services as a whole is undermined, this also undermines confidence in, and the authority of, our local police services. The MPS, the Home Office and the College of Policing should work together to ensure that centralised forces entering our area are cognisant of this and work to improve the sensitivity of these forces.

18. Another contributing factor to falling trust and confidence in Southwark is the MPS’ slow and ineffective external communication with our residents. This problem is particularly acute in Southwark: According to the latest MPS data from August 2022, just 26% of people in Southwark felt ‘well informed about local police activities over the last 12 months’, the lowest number of any London Borough, with our fellow Central South BCU partners Lambeth having the third lowest amount with 31%.25 Furthermore, in too many instances, the MPS is perceived as being unresponsive to major news stories concerning its policing performance. Southwark believes that this slow speed of external communication is at least partially caused by delays in internal communication, which have consequences for the reactivity of the MPS.

19. Southwark Council has worked to improve communications between the MPS and to rebuild trust and confidence in policing in our communities. The Southwark Stands Together (SST) programme is our long-term programme of positive action to work in solidarity with Southwark’s communities and the council’s staff to tackle racism, injustice and inequality. SST activity has been organised under a series of ‘work streams’, including the ‘Interaction with the Police’ work stream. This commits the Council to examining how communities engage with and perceive the Police, while addressing feelings of safety and race in the borough, including experience and insight from young people. As part of the work stream, the Council is working to build trust between the Police and the Community, improve police visibility and accessibility, and help the police develop a better understanding of the communities they serve. We have hired a dedicated Community Safety Officer to work closely with the Police and Southwark’s voluntary sectors and to achieve the aims of this work stream. Under SST we are also committed to reporting and celebrating good news stories concerning the MPS as well as negative ones. To this end, we are working to improve our residents’ knowledge of the work our police forces do.

We are also helping to improve engagement between Central South BCU and our community through Southwark’s Youth Independent Advisory Group (YIAG), a diverse youth-led group of 30 trained professionals who are funded by the council's community safety team via our Violence Reduction work. YIAG provides young people to challenge and counsel Central South BCU officers. In 2021, Southwark’s YIAG organised two events on the ‘state of policing in our borough’, in which young people had the opportunity to directly question the Lead Member for Community Safety and Public Health and the Police Borough Commander. This work is ongoing and further events are planned.

20. Southwark YIAG has also worked with local Central South BCU officers to train them in cultural competency, so that they can use this training while implementing stop and search processes. In 2022, YIAG and Southwark Council invited members of the community to attend a meeting with the Central South BCU about new ‘Police encounter panels’, which give communities an opportunity to feedback to Central South BCU on office behaviour during their encounters with residents. In this meeting, residents watched Body Worn Video (BWV) footage with officers and offered their views on what went well and what MPS officers could improve upon. The YIAG continue to work with Central South BCU on a co-produced community-friendly stop and search guide. In addition to this, Southwark has another well-established Independent Advisory Group (IAG), a voluntary group made up of members of the public that are independent of the police, which meets between four and six times a year, at various locations, to review and challenge policing practices constructively. IAGs provide support and challenge to police when a critical incident takes place. We welcome and the Central South BCU’s willingness to engage with our community encourage them to further explore opportunities to co-operate with our residents.

21. In these initiatives, Southwark Council has shown that it recognises the need to restore trust and confidence in our local police services and demonstrated our determination to help the MPS to achieve this.

22. Despite the scaling back of our neighbourhood police teams and the significant impact this has had on the MPS’ relationship with residents, as a council we have observed pockets of good practice in the MPS in increasing communication, and in turn, trust and confidence, in Central South BCU. Such examples include STRIDE, the MPS’ Strategy for Inclusion, Diversity and Engagement. As a result of sustained efforts to improve community outreach, many MPS officers serving in South East London have a good understanding of historic tensions between police services and the communities they serve. In addition to this, there are welcome signs that the MPS is thinking internally about how to improve its relationship with lower-trust groups. The ‘walk and talk’ initiative, developed at Southwark’s own Peckham Police Station, aims to incorporate discussions between officers and the public - particularly women – about how the MPS can increase their sense of safety while travelling at night and reassure them about ongoing work to address violence against women and girls, including the creation of specialist predatory offenders’ teams. Southwark Council welcomes this innovative method of communicating directly with residents who are more likely to have lower trust and confidence in the MPS. We believe that these pockets of good practice should be scaled up across the MPS and nationwide, to improve trust and confidence in communities across London and the UK.

23. Separately, there is more work to be done to identify how trust and confidence is measured and on which objectives and milestones this can be judged. For example, some residents are in favour of more police officers being deployed on police patrols and would have more confidence in police services if they were more visible in this manner. This belief is often not reflected within the leadership of the MPS, who believe that this deployment of resources and personnel has a limited impact on the tackling of crime and when compared to other options.

24.We would encourage the MPS to build on the pockets of good practice it has carried out on improving trust and confidence.

25. SCRUTINY – As a council we believe that the performance of the MPS would improve if the structures by which it is scrutinised and challenged were better. The operation and decision making of BCUs, including our own local Central South BCU, could be more effective if they were subject to a model of localised scrutiny which delivered greater accountability and oversight. The MPS should also have more formalised avenues of scrutiny with elected representatives who voice the concerns of their communities. Existing relationships with London Assembly members, ward councillors and MPs should be made closer and more constructive. This would serve to ensure that the BCU’s priorities are aligned with concerns expressed at a local level by residents, and that their actions are held accountable to communities.

26. The Mayor's Office for Policing And Crime (MOPAC) is a key mechanism by which the MPS is held accountable on a pan-London level. Although we recognise and welcome some measures undertaken by MOPAC to improve trust and confidence - such as the recently launched Victims Voice Survey - Southwark Council believes that MOPAC could do more to give Londoners a voice in its supervision of the MPS. We also believe that MOPAC could do more to consult London councils such as Southwark, and draw upon our knowledge and perspective in a true spirit of partnership. In particular, Southwark is concerned that there not appear to be a ‘golden thread’ of information sharing between MOPAC and local authorities in London. Our concerns appear to be reflected in the London Assembly’s Police and Crime Committee, who have expressed concerns about the Mayor’s Police and Crime Plan for London 2022-25, stating that there is not currently a ‘robust framework through which the Assembly and, crucially, Londoners can hold the Mayor, MOPAC and the Met to account’.26 We are furthermore concerned that MOPAC furthermore does not hold the MPS to account for its internal and external communication, something which is particularly concerning to Southwark Council as our residents’ knowledge about their local police services’ activity is the lowest in London.

27. While we feel that MOPAC could improve its London-wide oversight of the Met, it is more concerning that there are not effective mechanisms for BCUs to be scrutinised locally. Scrutiny of the BCU is currently supposed to be channelled through local ward police and crime panels, as well as Safer Neighbourhoods Boards (SNBs). These bodies are in theory effective mechanisms for residents to directly hold their local police services to account and act as a conduit for communities’ priorities, however at the present time they are not capable of doing this, particularly as many local ward crime panels do not meet. Furthermore, both police and crime panels and SNBs are not sufficiently representative of their local communities, and therefore are not necessarily capable of reflecting the issues their local residents are concerned about. We also know that safer neighbourhood boards themselves do not feel that they are being supported by the MPS, or MOPAC, to strengthen their ability to scrutinise the MPS. On 20 January 2022, the London Assembly Police and Crime Committee held an informal meeting with representatives of London’s Safer Neighbourhood Boards, in which the representatives expressed concerns that MOPAC was not using the opportunities from the new Police and Crime Plan to strengthen the role of Safer Neighbourhood Boards.27 As a result of these problems, which unfortunately look set to continue under the new Police and Crime Plan, safer neighbourhood panels and local ward police and crime panels are incapable of influencing the actions of their local BCUs. This is partially also caused by poor communications: It is no co-incidence that as the Borough with the lowest proportion of residents who feel informed about the activity of their local polices services, there is a low level of resident participation in safer neighbourhood boards and local ward and crime panels in Southwark. Safer Neighbourhood Teams (SNTs) should receive training to communicate with the general public and encourage this resident participation.

28. To counter this problem and improve scrutiny of Central South BCU, we feel that the systems by which neighbourhood and local policing are scrutinised should be improved, and the role which local residents and the general public play in this scrutiny should be increased as public scrutiny can help to increase trust and confidence in local policing. Furthermore, local authorities should have a more formalised scrutiny role in the operation of BCUs, for example by giving Lead Members’ formal oversight positions within BCUs.

October 2022