Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, and the Metropolitan Police Service have unveiled the detail behind a £412 million investment to create a new counter-terrorism and organised crime hub in the capital. The major new investment includes the £250 million purchase of the Empress State Building* in Hammersmith and Fulham and a “significant upgrade project” to make the building and its associated sites fully secure and fit for purpose.
These plans will bring together for the very first time under one roof the Metropolitan Police Service’s Counter-Terrorism Command and Specialist Crime and Operations in line with other cities like Manchester and Birmingham.
The move to focus on a single site, and dispose of other buildings, will also save on rent, freeing up more money to support front line policing.
According to a statement issued by the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC), London’s new counter-terrorism hub will “streamline operations and capabilities” and “ensure more effective and efficient working” to keep the capital as safe as possible from the constant and evolving threat of terrorism.
The current threat from international terrorism in the UK remains at ‘Severe’, which means an attack is highly likely. The increase in terrorist activity has been described by police and security experts as “a shift, not a spike”. The horrific events that took place in London and Manchester last year remind us all that attacks can happen at any time and without warning.
Until now, a significant proportion of the Empress State Building has been leased by the Metropolitan Police Service and used for a range of purposes including back office and operational functions. In addition to the benefits for London’s counter-terrorism provision, the purchase of the freehold offers better value for money than the alternative options (that include signing another 15-year lease).
Protection from terrorism and organised crime
Sadiq Khan explained: “Keeping Londoners safe is my first priority. This means ensuring that the capital is as protected as possible from the threat of terrorism and organised crime. Last year, our city was subjected to four terrorist attacks at Westminster Bridge, London Bridge, Finsbury Park and Parsons Green. We know that countless more planned attacks have been thwarted by our hard-working and dedicated counter-terrorism officers, whose heroism in these times of adversity we must never take for granted. At a time when policing budgets continue to be cut by Government, it’s right that we prioritise investment in those areas that matter most.”
Khan continued: “The fact is terrorism and serious organised crime continue to pose a real and ever-present threat in our city, and it’s imperative that we give our police officers the tools they need to help keep us safe. This new counter-terrorism and organised crime hub for the capital will ensure that London is brought into line with the rest of the country while also representing best value for money. It will bring our expertise and capabilities together in one place such that they can work more efficiently and effectively to ensure our city is as protected as possible.”
Cressida Dick, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service, stated: “Last year’s attacks were absolutely appalling. As we continue to try to do everything we can to prevent such events, we must take every opportunity to develop our services in a cost-effective manner. The new hub will allow us to continue to improve our abilities to confront the significant and ever-changing terrorist threat as well as to deal even more effectively with organised crime, cyber crime and other serious criminality. This development will undoubtedly support our hard-pressed officers and staff and, ultimately, help to make London safer.”
Review of terrorism preparedness
Counter-terrorism expert Lord Toby Harris’ recent review of London’s preparedness to respond to a terrorist attack highlighted the need to improve collaborative working across agencies and bring London’s capabilities into line with the facilities in other parts of the country like Manchester and Birmingham. Lord Harris has reviewed this new programme for the capital and fully supports its recommendations.
Lord Toby Harris said: “A few weeks ago, I spent some time visiting the existing arrangements for co-ordinating counter-terrorism and organised crime work in London. These are spread out over several sites and it’s not possible for all the services to work together as effectively as they would in the proposed new combined hub. I also reviewed the detail of the business case and I was convinced that what is proposed makes sense, represents value for money and will make a major contribution to keeping Londoners safe.”
*The MOPAC has agreed the price of £250 million to purchase Empress Holdings Ltd (and its subsidiaries), the ultimate owner of Empress State Building, from EC Group Holdings Ltd (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Capital & Counties Properties plc). MOPAC would pay an additional £10 million if certain conditions for security are met