Serious damage could be done to community policing in Richmond after Mayor Boris Johnson announced a change in safer neighbourhood team (SNT) structure, critics fear.

Under the London Policing Plan, the Mayor wants to reduce the number of ring-fenced PCs per ward from two to one, and PCSOs from three to two, or possibly even one.

Under the current system the 18 SNTs, one in each ward, are headed by a sergeant, with two PCs and three PCSOs.

Liberal Democrat London Assembly member Councillor Stephen Knight feared the changes would affect policing because the PCs covering wider areas would have looser links with the local community.

He said: “Our excellent local ward police teams currently provide a vital link between the police and the local community. They are deeply embedded in their wards and know the area and understand local people.

“Boris’s plan to replace these local teams with officers covering a much wider local police area will seriously damage the quality of local policing in our borough.”

But Richmond police said each ward team would be backed up by a team of three or four PCs, who will cover a wider sector within the borough, as well one ward each.

The changes would see the number of dedicated police per ward decrease from six to four or three, but each ward would be backed up by a team of PCs that would cover areas based on need.

Chief Inspector Graham Simpson said the new system would benefit the police because the extra PCs could provide essential back up to other areas.

Chief Insp Graham Simpson said: “There will be an increase in numbers, so it is a good thing. We are totally committed to neighbourhood policing.”

Under the current structure, each ward SNT has the same amount of officers, but police said the new model would provide more flexibility.

Insp Simpson said: “There is no change to the borough structure and there is no reduction in sergeants.

“The only change is there is going to be one PCSO across all the wards but they will be phased between the next one to three years – this is not just going to happen straight away on April 1.

“Every ward will have a number of officers who will work on the wards but they will be able to work on a number of wards.”

The Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime will hold a public meeting at York House on February 27, from 8pm to 9pm.

The meeting will offer people the chance to ask questions about how the SNTs will be restructured.