Chuka writes for the SLP on Local Policing

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

Chuka Umunna MP wrote the following column for the 18 October edition of the South London Press:

On May 11 2010, the Liberal Democrats decided to form a government with the Conservatives and they agreed to a programme that meant 20% cuts to police funding. They did this in spite of local LibDems all over the country making promises on policing before the general election – for example, their candidate in Streatham said “with gun crime and burglary rising in Lambeth, this is a terrible time to cut back on policing”.

Like other LibDem/Conservative Government policies they’ve signed up to – the bedroom tax, £9,000 tuition fees and the £100,000 tax cut for 13,000 of the richest people in the country – they should never have chosen to make their unprecedented cuts to policing. It was a betrayal of the people who voted for them, it seriously undermined trust in politics, and it damaged our communities. Consequently, since the 2010 general election, the number of police officers in my Borough, Lambeth, has fallen by 264.

On September 25 this year, an advert for the sale of Streatham Police Station was placed ‘for sale’ with immediate effect. Local residents shouldn’t be finding out what’s happening to their local police station on an estate agent’s website, especially considering there is no alternative site in Streatham ready for them to move into. Thankfully, the advert for the sale has been withdrawn – an admin mistake – but the Police are still looking to move.

The Police have been put in a position where they have fewer and fewer resources but when the demand for visible policing is as essential as ever. I meet with local police officers often and regularly, it’s a big part of my job as a local MP, and one of my biggest worries is the huge pressure they are under. Police officers in the area I represent are trying very hard to do the best with scarce resources, but in my view this Government is simply not giving them what they need.

I’ll always stick up for the best for our area, and that includes ensuring we have the best policing resources possible. I also want to do everything I can to help the Police cope with what the Government is doing, and help keep them visible and working to protect local residents. For that reason, I’m willing to hear them out when they say they need to move to a different local site in Streatham to help keep police numbers visible on the streets – I know the pressure the Government is putting them under.

On this, I’ve got five key tests for assessing the decision they want to make: 1) Any decision to move to an alternative local site must mean there will be more resources to go around to fund local policing services in Streatham. 2) Any replacement site must be sufficient for all the locally based officers to operate from. 3) Any replacement site must have a proper front counter service so that people can report crimes locally in person. 4) Any replacement site must be in the same local area, close to the existing site. 5) Any replacement site that fulfils these criteria must be operational before the old site is vacated.

I’ll keep working with the Police to try and help them deal with what the Government is doing, keep pushing for the high standards of policing we need, and I’ll also keep fighting the Liberal Democrats and Conservative Government who are still putting our Police in this awful position with irresponsible 20% cuts in police funding.

London Labour MPs write to Boris Johnson about cuts to the Police

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

 Outside City Hall campaiging against 20% cuts to Police with fellow London Labour MPs and Labour Assembly Members

Chuka joined with 37 other London Labour MPs in writing to Boris Johnson to protest about the dangerous cut to the police presence and to urge him to reconsider.

From 2010/11 to 2011/12 the annual crime count in Lambeth increased by more than 1400. The Lib Dem/Conservative Governments decision to cut police funding by 20% has hit Lambeth harder than any other Borough in London – Lambeth has lost 214 police officers since 2010.

Read the full text of the letter below.

Mr Boris Johnson
Mayor of London
Greater London Authority
City Hall
The Queen’s Walk
London SE1 2AA

25th March 2013

Dear Mayor,

The future of the Metropolitan Police Service

We are writing to express our deep concern about the scale of proposed cuts to police numbers and closure of police stations across London. The Government’s announcement that the police budget will go down by 20%, a total of £2 billion in this Parliament and the proposals to cut a further £500 million from the Metropolitan Police Service budget mean that London is set to lose more than 1,500 Police Officers  and PCSOs between now and 2015.

We understand that 63 police stations and front counters will also be closed across London. We believe that the rationale and criteria for each closure remain unclear and we are concerned this will lead to a heavily reduced police presence across London and put the safety of our communities at risk.

Nearly 5,000 Police Officers, Sergeants and PCSOs have lost their jobs in the Metropolitan Police Service since the cuts began in 2010 and thirteen London Boroughs (Barnet, Brent, Camden, Hammersmith & Fulham, Haringey, Havering, Hounslow, Kingston-upon-Thames, Lambeth, Redbridge, Richmond-upon-Thames, Tower Hamlets, Westminster) have seen crime increase over the same period, with significant increases in Tower Hamlets of 9.2%, in Brent of 8.9%, 6.2% in Camden as well as increases in the number of burglaries in Lewisham.

We are therefore deeply concerned about the impact of further job losses and proposed closures on frontline police services in communities across London.  Compared to 2010, 17 of London’s 32 boroughs will see a decrease in the number of police officers under the Police and Crime Plan, and the remaining boroughs will not receive as many extra officers as promised. We are also concerned that cuts to support staff will place an extra burden on frontline police officers and PCSOs.

The Police and Crime Plan for London also outlines reckless cuts to the resources available for local Safer Neighbourhood Teams (SNT). Each SNT currently has three PCSOs, two PCs and one Sergeant.  However, we understand the new model will see each SNT having only one PCSO and a ‘named police constable’. This will lead to the proven effectiveness of dedicated SNTs being put at risk and community policing will be devastated as a result.

We take issue with the date from which you have taken the baseline for police numbers, as the 2010 figure that you inherited is higher than the baseline you have chosen.

We believe it is dangerous to cut the police presence and close stations and we would urge you to reconsider these damaging cuts.

We would be grateful if you could meet with us as a matter of urgency.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

Rushanara Ali MP (Bethnal Green and Bow)

Diane Abbott MP (Hackney North and Stoke Newington)

Heidi Alexander MP (Lewisham East)

Lyn Brown MP (West Ham)

Karen Buck MP (Westminster North)

John Cryer MP (Leyton and Wanstead)

Jeremy Corbyn MP (Islington North)

Stella Creasy MP (Walthamstow)

Jon Cruddas MP (Dagenham and Rainham)

Rt. Hon Frank Dobson MP (Holborn and St Pancras)

Jim Dowd MP (Lewisham West and Penge)

Clive Efford MP (Eltham)

Jim Fitzpatrick MP (Poplar and Limehouse)

Mike Gapes MP (Ilford South)

Barry Gardiner MP (Brent North)

Rt. Hon Harriet Harman MP (Camberwell and Peckham)

Meg Hillier MP (Hackney South and Shoreditch)

Rt. Hon Margaret Hodge MP (Barking)

Kate Hoey MP (Vauxhall)

Glenda Jackson MP (Hampstead and Kilburn)

Rt. Hon Dame Tessa Jowell MP (Dulwich and West Norwood)

Rt. Hon Sadiq Khan MP (Tooting)

David Lammy MP (Tottenham)

Andy Love MP (Edmonton)

Seema Malhotra MP (Feltham and Heston)

Siobhain McDonagh MP (Mitcham and Morden)

John McDonnell MP (Hayes and Harlington)

Teresa Pearce MP (Erith and Thamesmead)

Stephen Pound MP (Ealing North)

Rt. Hon Nick Raynsford MP (Greenwich and Woolwich)

Dame Joan Ruddock MP (Lewisham Deptford)

Virendra Sharma MP (Ealing Southall)

Andrew Slaughter MP (Hammersmith)

Steve Reed MP (Croydon North)

Gareth Thomas MP (Harrow West)

Emily Thornberry MP (Islington South and Finsbury)

Rt. Hon Stephen Timms MP (East Ham)

Chuka Umunna MP (Streatham)

Chuka writes about policing for the South London Press

Monday, November 12th, 2012

Chuka wrote the following column on policing for the 9th November edition of the South London Press

I share the serious concerns that have been expressed in this newspaper about the huge cuts being made to frontline policing and the ongoing threat of police station closures. In less than two and a half years, since May 2010, we’ve lost 177 police officers in Lambeth alone.

The responsibility for these outrageous cuts lies not with the Police, who do a great deal of excellent work in our communities, but with the politicians and activists in the Liberal Democrat and Conservative Parties who campaigned to win the trust of our local community on law and order and anti-social behaviour, but who made such huge cuts to Police funding as soon as they got into power.

Before the last election, South London Press readers will remember that Liberal Democrat campaigners told people their Party would put an extra 10,000 police on the beat. Since that May election, when they got into Government, the number of police officers in Lambeth has fallen by 17%. In just two and a half years, the number of PCSOs has also crashed, by 47%.

This is not the fault of the Police. We can rightly be proud of so much of the work police officers do to serve our local communities. Our Safer Neighbourhood Teams, in particular, deserve the huge local support they have built since their introduction in the last decade. But Safer Neighbourhood Teams usually have one sergeant, two constables and three PCSOs. Recently, excellent local teams in my constituency have had to cope without.

Of course, not everything about the Police is perfect, and there are serious issues the Service still has to overcome, but when the community and the Police can come together to work to improve the service, I am confident that our local police officers will prove up to those challenges. What worries me is that without giving the Police proper resources, and without funding enough officers, it is difficult for us to ask the Police to do a proper job.

Since the Government took office, my local police in Lambeth have lost an average of more than six officers a month. If this continues, then by the next time there’s a general election, we could well end up in a situation where there’s one visible and available officer for around every 4,500 people who live in the Borough.

It’s difficult to expect the Police to be able to perform their role when they are facing this kind of pressure. Reports earlier this week of plummeting police morale are deeply worrying, and it is utterly clear that we must answer the spreading concern in the community about the impact Government cuts will have on community safety.

Our community must have the protection and policing it needs. Police visibility is a key concern of constituents, so police numbers matter. I will do everything I can to ensure police numbers do not fall further by opposing the irresponsible LibDem/Conservative Government cuts to police funding that are doing so much to undermine the police presence in our communities.

Video: Chuka talks to the Lambeth Mediation Service about the London Riots

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

Chuka speaks at the Lambeth Mediation Service 2011 AGM “Reflections on the Riots with Chuka Umunna”

Umunna: There can be ‘No Excuse Whatsoever’ for Witchcraft Abuse

Monday, March 5th, 2012

London MP Chuka Umunna says there can be ‘no excuse whatsoever’ for the practice of branding children as witches as he spoke on the day of the sentencing of Magalie Bamu and Eric Bikubi for the murder of Kristy Bamu on Christmas day 2010.

Kristy Bamu was murdered on Christmas day by his sister, Magalie Bamu, and her partner, Eric Bikubi, who suspected the 15 year old of practising witchcraft. The teenager was found drowned in the bathtub of the couple’s flat in Newham in East London after being subjected to four days of extreme violence and torture. Mr Bikubi and Ms Bamu will be sentenced today (5 March 2012) for the murder. The Crown Prosecution Service said that Eric Bikubi inflicted ‘violence on an unimaginable scale’ and that Magalie Bamu ‘willingly subjected her 15 year old brother to extreme violence’. The teenager was found with 130 separate injuries and died from a combination of drowning and beatings to his head, chest and limbs.

London MP Chuka Umunna represents the parliamentary constituency of Streatham, one of the three constituencies representing Brixton, an area with one of the largest African diaspora populations in the country. As the only black member of either the Cabinet or the Shadow Cabinet and as the most senior elected UK politician of African origin, Mr Umunna has been asked to host a summit on this issue on the 18th April 2012 by AFRUCA (Africans Unite Against Child Abuse). The summit will bring together community leaders, politicians and policymakers in order to look at what needs to be done to end the abuse and loss of life of young people of African origin, something the MP said was currently happening ‘under the radar in this country’.

Commenting on the sentencing of Mr Biubi and Ms Bamu and on the branding of children as witches and being possessed by evil spirits, Chuka Umunna MP said:

“Our hearts go out to Kristy Bamu’s family at this difficult time.

“This terrible case highlights the vital responsibility we have to protect children in our communities facing accusations of witchcraft. Children branded as witches or accused of being possessed by evil spirits, can face some of the worst abuses and neglect imaginable, as in the tragic case of Kristy Bamu, including torture and death. As a society we must face up to this problem.

“We must send out a very strong message that there can be no excuse whatsoever for treating children in this way, branding them as witches or as possessed by evil spirits, and that if you carry out these awful acts the strong arm of the law will be brought to bear on you.

“I will be hosting a summit on the 18th April in the House of Commons, in conjunction with AFRUCA, Africans Unite Against Child Abuse, which will bring together community leaders, experts, policymakers and politicians. Together, we will do everything in our power to work in a joined up way to prevent the tragic loss of life and maltreatment of young people of African origin which is happening, albeit in a small number of cases, under the radar in this country.”

Commenting, Debbie Ariyo OBE, Founder and Executive Director of AFRUCA, said:

“While offering our condolences to his family for this senseless murder, this case is a very powerful reminder of the utter devastation that can occur when children are needlessly and without reason branded as witches or as possessed by evil spirits.

“The branding of children as witches leads to other forms of abuses including serious physical abuse and torture, even sexual abuse and definitely child neglect. In this case, it has led to the death of a child.

“Child branding is therefore a very serious infringement on the rights of the child, which in my view cannot be justified by the claim of other people’s right to religion or freedom of expression.”

Local MP’s call to action as seven are stabbed in seven days

Monday, March 5th, 2012

London MP Chuka Umunna, who is Chair of the London Gangs Forum, has spoken out after seven stabbings, one of them fatal, took place in and around his South London constituency between the 25th February and the 2nd March.

There has been a significant recent increase in the number of violent knife attacks in South London in recent days. Between the 25th February and the 2nd March seven young people, four of them in the Streatham constituency of Chuka Umunna, have been attacked and stabbed, one of them fatally.

The teenager who died was stabbed at 17:50 on 2 March, reportedly after being chased by two men whilst with a friend. Earlier on the same day, at 13:15 a teenager was stabbed and left critically ill in Ernest Avenue, SE27. Five stabbings took place on the 25 February. At 02:50 in St Saviour’s road a man received multiple stab wounds. Later that today at 16:30 one man was stabbed in Tierney Road whilst another was hit and stabbed in Streatham Hill. At 16:35 a man was stabbed in Streatham Place and at 19:45 another man was stabbed in Coldharbour Lane, SW9.

Chuka Umunna is the MP for the Streatham constituency, where four of the seven stabbings took place. As Chair of the London Gangs Forum since September 2011, Chuka Umunna has been working with others in the voluntary and public sector to develop a pan-London approach to combating serious youth violence and gang involvement.

Streatham MP Chuka Umunna, commenting on the recent incidents of youth violence and knife crime, said:

“I am deeply concerned about the recent spate of stabbings we have had in my constituency and in Lambeth over the last fortnight. Yet again we see very serious violence and, tragically in one case, a fatality, amongst our young people for no purpose whatsoever – it is totally unacceptable and we will not put up with it.

“There are no quick fixes to this ongoing problem but I am clear that all of us – politicians, the police, the local councils and voluntary organisations working with young people – must strive even harder to work in a joined up fashion as a community to end this tragic waste of life and talent. This is why I chair the London Gangs Forum which works across London, bringing together all these stakeholders to exchange best practice and to bring more focus by central government on this issue.

“I want to pay tribute to our youth workers working to prevent this violence, to the police who have to deal with this dangerous situation, to Lambeth Council which has worked so hard on prevention and to our Community Police Consultative Group that provides a vital link to the views of the wider community on this issue.”

Local MP calls for urgent action against metal thieves

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

Chuka Umunna MP has spoken out about the problem of metal theft which he says is blighting the lives and livelihoods of many people locally.  

The rising levels of metal theft have seen Church roofs stolen and even instances of war memorials being vandalized so that plaques could be sold for scrap. Metal theft has also delayed local commuters, harming the ability of people to get to work and of business to operate; a huge burden in tough economic times.

Streatham MP Chuka Umunna has criticized the Government for failing to stop spiralling metal thefts and has joined with other Labour MPs to press for an immediate plan of action. The Labour plan, which has been supported by the British Transport Police, the Association of Chief Police Officers and by Neighborhood Watch is designed to stop metal theft damaging the economy, to ensure people can get to work and to better bring people to justice.

The Labour plan is to transform legislation concerning scrap metal dealers by replacing the current requirement to register with a Local Authority and replace it with a licensing system; to examine the case for banning cash transactions, especially for large scale scrap metal transactions; and to require anyone selling scrap metal to provide proof of identity, recorded at the point of sale. The Labour MPs also want tougher Police powers so that rouge traders can be closed down

Commenting, Chuka Umunna MP said:

“The actions of a few are blighting our community; making it difficult for people to get to work; difficult for people to go into their own churches to pray and, horrifically, even desecrating the memory of those we have lost in war. The Conservative-led Government talked tough on crime now I would like it to prove to a doubting public that they are capable of more than merely empty words.”

“I and other Labour MPs have given the Government a plan. It is one that is good for my constituents, good for our economy and essential to enforce the rules of a decent society. I call on the Government to start paying attention to one of the many serious pressing concerns that ordinary hard-working people have and of which this Government is proving too aloof to take notice.”

“We have given the Conservative-led Government a plan. They have no excuse not to act”


Umunna seeks answers on gangs from Home Secretary

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011

Streatham MP Chuka Umunna has pressed Home Secretary Theresa May for answers on the role of gangs in last month’s public disorder in Brixton and Streatham and on how much new funding allocated to tackling gang problems will benefit Lambeth.

Addressing the Home Secretary directly in the House of Commons this week, Mr Umunna asked what evidence Ministers had examined on the role of gangs in last month’s unrest and how much of a new £18 million fund, announced earlier this year to help areas affected by gang violence, will benefit Lambeth

In response, the Home Secretary promised to write to Mr Umunna to provide clarification on the points he raised.

Responding to Mr Umunna, she said: “If I may, I will write to him with the specific information he has requested about Lambeth. London as a whole is one of the three areas, along with Greater Manchester and the west midlands, that are particularly benefiting from the funding that has been made available, as they are areas where the gang problem is a particular issue.

“The honourable Gentleman is right that, notwithstanding whatever role gangs played in the riots and unrest of early August, we must deal with gang culture, because, sadly, it is a problem that blights too many of our communities.”

Mr Umunna asked the question following his recent discussions with local police, and said to the Home Secretary: “I have been told by my local police that gangs were not necessarily co-ordinating all the activity in our area, although gang culture is a big ongoing issue for us.”

Commenting afterwards, Chuka Umunna MP said:

“It is crucial that we are able to gain a full understanding of the role of gangs in last month’s unrest in our area and beyond so that policies can address the situation.

“Long before last month’s unrest occurred, gang violence has been a significant issue locally. It is welcome that the government has made available additional funds to tackle gangs and address gang culture, but it is crucial that Lambeth benefits from this. That is why I asked the Home Secretary to clarify how the funds are being allocated.”

Chuka Umunna MP responds to Home Affairs Select Committee report

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

Following the publication of the Home Affairs Select Committee report into phone hacking and the Metropolitan Police’s investigation of it, Streatham MP Chuka Umunna said:

“It’s a great shame that failures at the top should tarnish the reputation of London’s Met, a police service overwhelmingly made up of hard working local officers who work tirelessly to keep Londoners safe in very difficult circumstances.

“Whilst it is important the relationship between the police and the media is reformed and addressed, I hope this saga will not distract from the Met’s core tasks, not least reducing and preventing the serious gang, gun and knife crime which continues to blight streets in my constituency and others.”

Chuka’s statement to Lambeth CPCG on fatal shooting in Tulse Hill

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

Following the tragic events in Tulse Hill this week, Chuka submitted the statement below to the Lambeth Community Police Consultative Group (CPCG) meeting which took place last night:

Dear all

You will now all have heard of the senseless killing of yet another young man from and in our community – my constituent Nana Darko Frempong.

When we hear of a life tragically lost in our community, our hearts sink – we can only imagine the pain that their loved ones are going through. Our thoughts and deepest condolences go out to his family and friends.

We, together as a community, will do all we can to support and comfort them at this very difficult time – let there be no doubt: we are right behind them.

I will not comment on the details of this particular incident as I do not wish to prejudice the police investigation which is ongoing, save to say that it is totally unacceptable that this is happening on our streets, we will work together to tackle the root causes and, above all, we must bring the perpetrators of these acts to justice.

Clearly we have a problem given the number of incidents that have occurred of late. There are many things we need to do which I have already mentioned at CPCG before. Above all, we need much better joined up working locally and nationally to prevent these tragedies occurring. We are already working towards this as you will hear this evening from the police and the Council; I am doing all I can to address this in Parliament at a national level.

I am sorry I cannot be with you this evening – we are voting on important counter terrorism measures in the House of Commons tonight. However, you can speak to my office manager Anna Coffey who is in attendance and/or contact me directly with your thoughts on this issue.

Yours in solidarity,