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Exclusive: Southwark police chief to lead joint force with Lambeth, if city-wide merger plans approved

The borough commander of Southwark police has been chosen to lead a mooted merged command unit with Lambeth, the News can reveal.

An email from Lambeth borough commander, chief superintendent Richard Wood, has all but confirmed controversial proposals to merge the 32 Met Police borough command units into just twelve.

And his email, which has been seen by the News, said Southwark’s borough commander, chief superintendent Simon Messinger, would take charge of the merged Southwark/Lambeth unit.

The London-wide merger plans first appeared in a public consultation of the Met’s draft 2017-21 Police and Crime Plan.

Under the merger, inner-London boroughs would join in pairs and outer-London boroughs would be grouped in threes. A pilot is already being run between the Islington and Camden boroughs, as well as three-way pilot between Havering, Redbridge and Barking and Dagenham.

It is also thought that Lewisham, Greenwich and Bexley could merge.

It was stated in the draft Police and Crime Plan that the mergers would help shave fifteen per cent off the Met’s overall expenditure, by reducing back-office costs. Details have yet to emerge as to whether this would been cuts to staff numbers.

In the email, Mr Wood said: “I can confirm that Ch Supt Simon Messinger will be the BCU [borough command unit] commander for Lambeth and Southwark.

“[Mr Messinger] is someone I hold in the highest regard and consider to be an exceptional leader and police officer. I simply cannot speak highly enough of him, and I am sure you will share my sentiments once you have enjoyed the opportunity to work with him yourself.”

The email also revealed that Mr Wood “has been asked to take charge of the Homicide Command”. But he says there is “no fixed time scale” for his departure, and the merger proposal “is still to be ratified” by the Met Police commissioner Cressida Dick and the mayor of London’s office for police and crime.

“If approved, it is anticipated the merging process will begin in early 2018. If the changes go as planned, I believe you will start to see Mr Messinger in and around the borough from the autumn onwards,” his email said.

Florence Eshalomi, London Assembly member for Southwark and Lambeth, who has previously criticised the proposals, told the News: “It makes me question, are they trying to rush this under the radar? Which wouldn’t be a good look.

Florence Eshalomi, London Assembly Member for Southwark and Lambeth

“Lambeth officers were first to respond to the Westminster terror attack, and Southwark officers were first to respond to this [the London Bridge terror attack]. It’s bad timing, and we need to keep on it with this.” She previously labelled the proposals “a cost cutting exercise that we don’t want”.

Explaining the merger proposals, the Met’s draft Police and Crime Plan said: “The aim of this approach is to improve response to crime that crosses Borough boundaries, reduce the amount the Met spends on management and maximise the amount we can spend on frontline policing such as neighbourhood teams and 999 response.

“The larger command units also bring together specialist officers into larger, more locally based teams, strengthening their capacity to investigate serious crimes and support victims.”

Mr Wood and Mr Messinger both preferred not to comment. The Met Police did not wish to comment, but told the News that the proposals have yet to be confirmed.


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