Tulip Siddiq discusses police cuts with Vanessa Feltz

TRANSCRIPT, BBC LONDON 9/11/15

tulipvanessaTULIP SIDDIQ, Hampstead and Kilburn MP
I APPLAUD the efforts of my constituents in Hampstead to come together as a community to raise money to fund the police. But can I just say this is disgraceful: should the residents of Hampstead really have to do this? This is the job of politicians, to keep people safe. The reason they have done this is because they feel vulnerable. I live near there and yes there has been an increase in the number of crimes ever since the police station was closed. They feel they have no choice but to come together and protect themselves. This is not their job. It is the job of the Mayor to keep people safe.

VANESSA FELTZ, BBC radio presenter
It’s interesting because the chairman of the Fitzjohn’s and whatever it is association who are campaigning to raise this money for Hampstead, to keep more policeman in Hampstead, says ‘we don’t have as bad a level of crime as Kentish Town’. Kentish Town is about a mile up the road, isn’t it? So if Hampstead residents see the level of crime in Hampstead isn’t nearly as bad as Kentish Town, and you are saying in a very angry voice ‘it’s outrageous, and it’s appalling that the residents of Hampstead have to do this, and have no choice but to do this’, well, what about the residents of Kentish Town, acknowledged to have a worse level of crime than the residents of Hampstead? Why aren’t they also having to do this?’

TS
Well, look. I agree with you to be honest. There are 17,000 police officers who have been cut since 2010 and it’s been reported that there will be more cuts in the next few years. This is a worrying precedent that’s been set for London, which is, as you say, that certain parts of London that are able to crowd-fund like this but look at my constituency of Hampstead – and Kilburn. There have been more cuts in police in Kilburn, which is a very vulnerable area but in no way will they be able to do what the Hampstead residents are doing because people are making a choice between turning on the heating and eating. They won’t have the opportunity to do this. So well done for the residents of Hampstead for being able to do this, but it is not something that is going to be replicated elsewhere in London – or even in my constituency.

VF
What is the story in Kilburn, Tulip? Because we have this closure of the Rosslyn Hill police station… but what’s the story with police stations in Kilburn itself?

TS
In Brent, we’ve had a number of stabbings and shootings, so things are becoming more and more vulnerable but a 40 percent cut in the police budget is not going to help anyone take the level of crime down and what we need is more police on the streets. We also need physical police presence because what’s next? We are already crowdsourcing for police. Are we going to be crowdsourcing for firefighters next? And rubbish collectors? Where’s this going to end in terms of public services.

VF
I don’t know if you are giving me a rhetorical question or whether you want to give me the answer to your question, when you’ve just posed ‘where is this going to end’? Where do you think it will end?

TS
I think what will happen is, Boris Johnson needs to realise that he needs to stop engaging in vanity projects like the Emirates line on the cable car and needs to stop indulging in things like the garden bridge, and needs to concentrate on protecting our residents instead. That’s what we’ve elected him to do.

VF
The garden bridge, as you know, is going to be funded by private investment. Boris Johnson isn’t spending Londoners’ money on the garden bridge.

TS
He’s already spent money on the Emirates Line which nobody uses, so I think he should think very carefully before he invests in public services which nobody uses and thinks about keeping our residents safe.

VF
Do you genuinely feel that your residents are not safe because even Lord Paddick said the police station in Rosslyn Hill was primarily symbolic, it was symbolic of a police presence… A bit like an insurance policy, one that you hope you will never have to use but at least you are comforted by the fact you have it. In other words, that it is not really an active part of policing or keeping crime down.

TS
I think that’s a very naive thing to say. The police station in Hampstead is one I’ve used since I was a teenager. I’ve been there since I was a victim of crime. Plenty of people used it. You knew you could go there if you were ever a victim of crime, and there has been an increase in the level of crime after it got cut. Let me tell you something, let us listen to the experts. The outgoing borough commander Richard Tucker pointed out that a 40 percent cut in policing budget would do nothing to help people, keep them safe and also he protested against the closure of the police station along with residents. It’s not just the fact of a physical presence there, it’s that people did drop in and use it, and I think we need to be aware of the fact that people see police on the streets and feel a lot safer. Because you know you can go to them.

VF
Where are the nearest police stations now Hampstead police station has closed?

TS
You can go to Kentish Town and there is a halfway service in West Hampstead which is sometimes open, sometimes not. None of those are exactly close to Hampstead. So if there is a crime, my residents will have to go and travel to Kentish Town, to Holborn and to West Hampstead.

VF
What about Temple Fortune. NW11. Is that police station still open?

TS
Yes, but it’s not very close to Hampstead, so….

VF
Well, it’s about a mile and a half down the road, isn’t it, from Hampstead?

TS
It takes a lot longer than that to get there and imagine if you are elderly or disabled: you are hardly going to be in a situation where you can hurry there if you have been the victim of crime. The police station in Hampstead should be open again and that’s what we need, and that’s what I’ll be campaigning for, and what I’ve been campaigning for in the past.

VF
Are you not, though, painting a Dixon Of Dock Green style picture of life with a local police station? Don’t people in general, particularly the elderly and the disabled but everyone else as well, phone a police station or phone the police, they don’t go out and walk to the police station in general. What for?

TS
Well I think that’s something we should have. I think we should be able to walk into a police station. I think we should be able to approach police officers on the street. You can’t always rely on calling a police station. I think you should be able to walk in. What’s the point of having a Mayor who promises to protect their residents and protect all of us, if he can’t deliver for the people of Hampstead and Kilburn and generally in London.

VF
Final question. What’s become of the Rosslyn Hill station. Have they sold it off, is it going to be luxury flats? What’s going to happen to it?

TS
There was talk of it being turned into a school, initially, and there was a call for it not to be turned into a block of flats. But you know how little power the community have over things like this, especially buildings like old police stations – so I won’t be holding my breath. For me, I’d like to have some kind of community use there and certainly hope we won’t have another block of luxury flats.

VF
But actually, don’t we have a special kind of community building almost exactly opposite as you go down the road to Belsize Park, that big community building I can’t think the name of, but you’ll know what I mean on the other side of the road…

TS
The old Town Hall.

VF
Exactly, down the same road. Why do you need another big community centre right opposite one you already have?

TS
Well, why would we need another block of luxury flats in Hampstead.

VF
Nobody is saying you do need a block of luxury flats but if the best answer you can come up with is something already got just a few yards over the road, then it probably hasn’t been thought through has it?

TS
You can never have enough community centres.

VF
You can if they are empty, you can have far too many if you have got not enough community people interested to come and visit them, then you probably don’t need another one right opposite the one you already have, do you?

TS
You probably haven’t been to Hampstead in a while, but…

VF
I live, I live, I live in St John’s Wood. I’m just over the road. I’m there all the time. That’s why I happen to know that there’s a community centre just opposite. How would I know that? I haven’t got anybody feeding information into my ear as I’m talking to you. Of course, I’ve been to Hampstead. I’m there all the time. I was probably there yesterday, if anything. Tulip, thank you very much for talking to us.

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