British Met Police Ponder Selling New Scotland Yard To Cut Cost
The tower has been the home of Britain's biggest police force since the 1960s but police chiefs are planning to sell the building and move to a smaller headquarters as they try to save £500m from a £3.6bn annual budget, following government cuts.
The plan to sell the building in Victoria, central London, is one of a raft of proposals from the capital's force. Others include closing public counters during off-peak hours, reducing the numbers of supervising officers and selling off numerous assets, including other property.
The force says it will maintain officer numbers at around the 32,000 mark. But its plans so far include no detail about cuts to police staff or to police community support officers who can be made redundant. The deputy commissioner Craig Mackey has overseen the plans.
Part of the logic for moving from Scotland Yard is an estimate that £50m would need to be spent to refurbish the building, which is run down in parts.
The Met is looking at a move to a nearby site in Cannon Row, which would house about 800 staff, far fewer than the current HQ, which the force moved to in 1967.
The Met's budget plans will be presented to the mayor's office for police and crime, and ultimately to the London assembly, but police chiefs stress they are for consultation. "No decisions have been made on any of these proposals,", Mackey said.
Many front counters in police stations face closure or partial closure. About half attract one visitor an hour, which police chiefs believe ties up too many resources for too little a result. One idea is to share what are called "public access points" with local councils, and even move some of these into supermarkets.
But plans such as permanent closure of some front counters, partial closure of others and cuts in local policing management may face opposition from communities.
The plans are notable for what is not mentioned. Job cuts are not mentioned, and nor is saving money by outsourcing more services to the private sector, as the government wants police forces to do.
In July the Met's finances were highlighted as being of particular concern by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary. The Met must make its £500m savings by 2015.
Mackey said under the proposals the proportion of constables available for the frontline would increase to 25,000 out of the 32,000 total.
The Met believes it can improve policing while delivering cuts, a challenge as its budget has increased every year since 1999, meaning police chiefs are not used to managing a time of austerity. To this end the commissioner, Bernard Hogan-Howe, has brought in top advisers from outside the force.
The Met is renowned among other forces for operating in an expensive way and being used to having more resources than other major urban constabularies in Britain.