Penny Banham is leaving her post as Camden's most senior officer
Published: 25 November, 2016
By WILLIAM McLENNAN
CAMDEN’S dedicated police force will be combined with neighbouring Islington next year as part of a cost-cutting merger.
The boroughs’ police teams will be unified from January in a trial that Met chiefs have billed as “modernising the Metropolitan Police Service”.
Critics have said it is a “cost-cutting exercise, no more no less” and raised concerns about the impact on the effectiveness of local police.It will see Camden’s most senior officer, Penny Banham, leave her post, with Islington’s commander Catherine Roper overseeing both boroughs and a residential population of more than 400,000.
Chief Superintendent Roper told the New Journal: “We are all aware that there are financial challenges facing the Metropolitan Police Service, that’s not a secret, but the drive for this is making sure that we provide the best service we can for members of the public.”
Questions remain around how the merger will affect officers, with concerns over the operation of “emergency response teams”, which respond to 999 calls. They are currently based in Holmes Road, Kentish Town, but officers are unclear if they will now be called upon to attend emergencies in far-flung corners of Islington.
Chief Supt Roper said the merger, which will see Camden and Islington become one Basic Command Unit (BCU), would allow them to “flex our resources across the entire geographical area”.
“That doesn’t mean we’ll have somebody in the top right of Camden going to the bottom left of Islington. But what you often find is the person who is physically closest, is currently owned by another borough. If we have a road that is technically in Camden and a car that is technically in Islington, but they are closest, why wouldn’t we send that person? Criminals don’t observe borough boundaries.”
She added: “This is genuinely an incredible opportunity to really drive an improvement in front-line policing. We are still working out some of the technical details on all of this stuff, but equally that’s because it’s under continuous review.”
The New Journal first reported on the prospect of a merger in June with Met commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe saying at the time: “There’s no doubt over the next few years we have got to save £300million and none of the options are easy.”
Jessica Learmond-Criqui, who chairs the Frognal and Fitzjohn’s Safer Neighbourhood Panel, slammed the merger and said it “means chaos for the Met with no one knowing really how this will work”. She added: “This is cost cutting by any other name and continues to debilitate the effectiveness of the Met. The Met are slowly becoming incapable of providing a proper service for Metropolitan London. It is a national scandal that they are not properly funded by the Mayor and by the government, leading to these massive cuts.”
The changes will not affect the Met’s commitment to introduce an additional neighbourhood officer to every ward in London, Scotland Yard said.