It was great to have the opportunity to ask questions to Brent’s Borough Commander Matt Gardner last night at Brent Town Hall.
I took the opportunity firstly to thank him for the community reassurance role he played after the tragic fire on Sonia Gardens in my ward last year.
Some of the challenges that the Police are facing in Brent are profound but they are determined as are the Council in delivering the best for our residents despite the challenges we have with resources. Our job is to get on with what we have.
Last night it was revealed that Brent has the largest ‘success rate’ in London when it comes to stop and search. The police are adopting an intelligence based approach to stop and search targeting hotspot crime areas.
They are doing a lot more cross border work which is crucial in areas that neighbour other Boroughs.
We are already 6 sergeants down. Numbers should be ok for PCs. After next week there will be 35 PCSOs in Brent. Based on a formula which recommends that amount that a Borough should have in order to effectively police the streets, Brent should have 75 PCSOs. There is no recruitment drive for PCSOs. When asked what the Borough Commander would do about the recruitment of PCSOs, he honestly said there’s nothing he can do and that he’ll continue to do his job and manage to effectively police Brent with the resources he has.
He admitted that there will have to be a review into what the Police do and that some things they may just have to stop doing. He addressed the perception that we will be short of police in Brent over the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. We will actually get more resources in terms of police officer numbers because we are an Olympic Borough with the Wembley National Stadium and Wembley Arena hosting sporting events.
The Borough Commander said that 84% of his budget is spent on wages and given that there is a 20% to the Brent police budget, it’s not rocket science to see that there are challenges. He drew comparisons to the cuts that Brent Council is making to libraries and said that the Police may have to look into the future of Willesden Police station and whether they can afford to have it. There’s only so much that can be saved from cutting back from buying paper clips.
When I asked whether frontline staff were spending time doing back office functions such as administrative tasks, the Borough Commander replied “not yet”, but that he could see it possibly happening in the future, which is why the Police had to look at what they do.
The challenges that the Police and the Council are facing means that there will be greater partnership and pooling of resources between the two.