A controversial merger of police units has caused Bexley to slip from being the safest borough in London.

Councillors claim the impact of the new Basic Command Unit, combining Bexley with Greenwich and Lewisham, has had a detrimental impact on the outer London borough.

Since the new structure went live, Bexley has fallen from being the safest borough to the third, then seventh safest, and now fifth.

The new basic command units were rolled out across London in November, bringing together single police units into joint operations for two or three boroughs.

The decision to merge units comes as Scotland Yard looks to save £325m by 2021/2022.

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At a meeting on Wednesday, July 17, communities’ cabinet member Alex Sawyer said the model was far from working for Bexley.

He said: “I hoped things might start to improve and we could look at it objectively and say there are benefits.

“It should be said it is not all bad – there is greater cooperation around gangs, but the simple fact is we have gone from the safest, to one of the safest, to the seventh and now the fifth. It is simply not acceptable.

“There has been a decline in policing across the borough. That needs to be addressed with immediacy, worse than that there has been a double digit decrease in emergency call responses and the number of crimes going unsolved is increasing.

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“We stand willing with police to support them wherever we can, but the Mayor’s BCU simply isn’t working.

“I do think the Mayor is obsessed with inner London – we are unique in that we have the A2, making it easy to get in and out of Bexley.

“We are faced with an increase in cross borough gangs – communication within the BCU is improving with the local authority but it is far from ideal. The BCU is only nine months in, there is time to turn it around. I wish whoever the Mayor is the best of luck, but he needs to up his game.”

Drug offences, an issue that has been associated with the BCU merger, have seen spikes since November. Burglary has decreased significantly, whilst overall offences since the merger went live rose month after month between November and January, and again between February and May.

Labour councillor Mabel Ogundayo pointed out that the borough commander has previously said that if government cuts fail to stop, there will be no money left to run the Met in three years’ time.

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Chief Superintendent Simon Dobinson added in April that the merger had left the force “playing football with nine men, and everyone needs to be a keeper, defender and striker”.

“What communication is the cabinet member having with the home secretary to support our police, who have openly informed us of the impact his government cuts are having?”, the Labour councillor said.

Cllr Sawyer said: “To give credit to the Mayor he has put more money in the violent reduction unit – but to govern is to choose and he is the first to jump on the bandwagon and say there is not enough money from government, but he doesn’t look at where his office is wasting money.”

Leader of the council Teresa O’Neill recently met with Sophie Lyndon, the deputy mayor, to talk about Bexley’s issues.

Cllr O’Neill said: “We had a good conversation – it started a bit tense but people realised we are in the position that we accept it, but we want to do best by our residents.

“We have changed our practices to make sure we help within our organisation. We have new ways we can help. We know we want to deliver what is right. “