Susan Hall is a member of the London Assembly.
During Sadiq Khan’s Mayoralty, London has seen a significant increase in crime. The problem has become so bad that criminal activity associated with drug dealing has been exported from London to other parts of the UK. He recently claimed, “I am doing my bit in London”. This is simply not the case and there is much more he can be doing.
His main tactic is to issue press releases and back any idea that will get him a headline. For example, the Public Health Approach, often referred to as the ‘Glasgow Model’, has become a popular phrase among decision makers and politicians. But what is the Glasgow Model, and how can it help in London?
The ‘Glasgow Model’ works via an operating central coordinating body known as the Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) that manages all aspects of planning around violent crime, including the targeting of offenders, prevention, and giving people a path out of crime. The VRU links the police, the local authority, the NHS, and other partners to deliver a uniformed approach to addressing the problems from violent crime.
The problem with replicating this model in London is that London is not Glasgow. London has a population of 8.63m, over 14 times that of Glasgow, which has a population of 0.6m. Glasgow has one local authority, whereas London has 32 boroughs and the Greater London Authority. Glasgow has one Accident and Emergency Hospital, London has 30. In London, there is also a close working relationship between three police forces: BTP, City of London and the Met. Having just one representative from all of these London organisations would mean creating a decision-making body consisting of 66; with charities and other partners, this could easily grow to over 100 representatives.
There are lessons that can be learned from Glasgow. We need good partnership working to tackle violent crime, but this should be coordinated from a borough level where there is a strong local connection and those involved know the area. The main issue is police numbers. Since becoming Mayor, Sadiq Khan has chosen to protect central police officer roles at the expense of local policing. With the new Borough Command Unit model, the Mayor is implementing a reduction of over 2,000 police officers from the boroughs.
The Chief Constable of Durham, Mike Barton, whose force is solving the most crime, attributes this to ‘boots on the ground’.
The Mayor claims he has had to do this because he needs more money from central government, but it is easy to find money that he will spend elsewhere rather on police officers. He has increased the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime budget at City Hall by £10.5m. Since 2015/16, he overpaid for the recent purchase of the Empress State Building by £30m, and this year he spent £10m on training courses for staff to determine the colour of their personality.
If the Mayor is serious about tackling the surge in violent crime in London, he needs to move away from governing by press release and supporting initiatives that will simply get him a headline. He needs to let boroughs create their own plans to tackle the violence, and he should reverse his cuts to local police officer’s numbers. If he put police officers back on the streets, crime will start to fall.