Sadiq Khan today came under pressure to keep all London police stations open after he intervened to save one in Uxbridge just weeks before a crunch by-election.
Policing minister Chris Philp, speaking in the House of Commons, claimed the London mayor would shed his ‘credibility’ if he failed to reverse further planned closures.
A furious row has erupted after Mr Khan wrote to Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley to say the under-threat Uxbridge police station should now remain open.
It comes less than three weeks before the Uxbridge and South Ruislip by-election, when local voters – who were concerned by the possible closure – will choose a new MP to replace ex-prime minister Boris Johnson.
Labour have high hopes of taking the west London constituency off the Tories and Mr Khan has been accused of ‘cynical political game-playing’ and attempting to boost his party’s chances.
Policing minister Chris Philp, speaking in the House of Commons, claimed the London mayor would shed his ‘credibility’ if he failed to reverse further planned police station closures
Tory former Cabinet minister Theresa Villiers raised the controversy during Home Office questions in the Commons this afternoon
Tory former Cabinet minister Theresa Villiers, who represents another Greater London constituency in Chipping Barnet, raised the controversy during Home Office questions in the Commons this afternoon.
She asked Mr Philp: ‘Given this morning’s U-turn by the Mayor of London over selling off Uxbridge police station, does the minister believe he should also act to save Barnet police station?
‘And, if he doesn’t, his decision on Uxbridge looks like cynical political game-playing and interference in a by-election?’
Mr Philp replied: ‘I and many other Londoners were concerned when Sadiq Khan, I think in 2017, announced plans to close 37 police stations.
‘Thanks to resolute campaigning of local councillor Steve Tuckwell [the Tory by-election candidate] in Hillingdon, Sadiq Khan has executed a last-minute handbrake U-turn under pressure – I’m sure entirely unconnected with the upcoming by-election.
‘My right honourable friend is absolutely right, if Sadiq Khan is to have any credibility at all with Londoners – he currently has pretty much none at all – he should reverse not just this one police station closure plan but all of his police station closure plans.’
Sadiq Khan, in a letter to Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley, said that the under-threat Uxbridge police station should now remain open
Boris Johnson, pictured at Uxbridge police station in December 2021, had been campaigning for it to remain open before he quit as the local MP
Susan Hall, who is campaigning to be the Tory candidate in next year’s mayoral election, accused Mr Khan of ‘political games’
But Mr Khan hit back at the criticism and blamed ‘huge government cuts’ for police station closures, which he highlighted had also taken place during Mr Johnson’s spell as London mayor.
‘Huge government cuts over the last decade have forced the Met to make extremely difficult decisions about where they allocate resources,’ he said.
‘More than 70 police stations and front counters were closed in London between 2008-2016 under the previous mayor Boris Johnson.’
In his letter to Sir Mark, Mr Khan said he had listened to the concerns of local residents and that it was in the best interests of the community for the Uxbridge station to remain open.
The Labour politician added that there was a ‘strong’ case for retaining stations across London, after the highly critical review of the Met by Baroness Louise Casey.
‘I’m proud that thanks to our extra investment from City Hall we’re once again restoring neighbourhood policing to our local communities,’ he said.
‘And I’ve also been listening to local residents and campaigners in places like Uxbridge who have been telling me how having a local police station in their area makes them feel much safer.
‘As we continue to rebuild neighbourhood policing and restore confidence after the Casey Review, I’ve written to the Met Commissioner saying that the case for now retaining more police station sites across the capital is strong, and would be an important part of our work ensuring the force delivers everything that Londoners need and expect.’
Susan Hall, a Tory member of the London Assembly who is campaigning to be her party’s candidate in next year’s mayoral election, had also joined the criticism of Mr Khan.
‘The Met Police is not a toy that Sadiq Khan can use for his political games,’ she said.
‘Residents in Uxbridge are seriously concerned about his appalling decision to close the station, and he has now U-turned only because his disastrous ULEZ expansion is threatening Labour’s prospects of winning the by-election.’
Ms Hall called on local voters to ‘send a message’ to the London mayor by backing Tory candidate Mr Tuckwell in the Uxbridge and South Ruislip contest this month.
She added: ‘If I am elected Mayor of London, all of my decisions will be in the best interests of Londoners, unlike Sadiq Khan who only thinks about himself.’
After quitting Downing Street last summer, Mr Johnson used an appearance in the House of Commons to demand Mr Khan save Uxbridge police station.
He told MPs that Uxbridge remained ‘the most sensible place’ for a police station in the local borough.
The ex-PM also filmed a video outside Uxbridge police station last month, before standing down as the local MP, in which he implored Mr Khan to ‘end the uncertainty’.
Labour’s by-election candidate Danny Beales said he was ‘delighted’ with the decision to keep the police station open.
‘Today’s success clearly shows what we can achieve when we work together,’ he said.
‘This is just the start of what I want to deliver as a strong, local voice for the people of Uxbridge and South Ruislip.’