Met Police numbers could fall to lowest level in 16 years in London if funding not increased, Sadiq Khan warns

'I'm genuinely concerned about how we keep Londoners safe with officer numbers as low as 26,800'

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Correspondent
Monday 03 December 2018 12:35 GMT
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The home secretary has pledged more funding in an upcoming financial settlement
The home secretary has pledged more funding in an upcoming financial settlement (PA)

The number of police officers in London could plummet to its lowest level in 16 years unless funding is urgently increased, Sadiq Khan has said.

The mayor said he was “genuinely concerned about how we keep Londoners safe” and blamed austerity for worsening rising violence.

“The causes of violent crime are extremely complex, but there is no doubt it has been made far worse by huge government cuts to the police and youth service,” Mr Khan added.

“We urgently need to see action to avoid officer numbers falling even further.

“Government cuts have led to London losing 3,000 police officers, and more than 3,000 PCSOs and 5,000 police staff, and I’m genuinely concerned about how we keep Londoners safe with officer numbers as low as 26,800.

“Ministers need to reverse the £1bn savings forced on the Met and reverse their cuts on youth services and other preventative services so that we can keep our city safe.”

Scotland Yard is required to make a further £335m worth of savings by 2022, Mr Khan’s office said, basing their figures on “updated and detailed” calculations by the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime.

The figure is £10m more than previous forecasts, they said, claiming it could lead to officer numbers falling to their lowest level since 2002.

Armed police may be deployed to patrol areas of London to combat violence

The budget forecast also takes account of a change in police pensions which will require Scotland Yard to meet an increase in its annual pension bill of £104m from 2020, equivalent to more than 1,700 officers.

The mayor’s office said the calculations were made on the basis that Mr Khan will increase the policing element of the council tax precept by 5.1 per cent, or £12 per household, to raise an additional £49m.

Mr Khan spoke before a meeting with Sajid Javid on Tuesday, where the home secretary will give details of the government’s upcoming financial settlement for police in England and Wales.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr Javid said the government “will deliver more resources” for police.

“In a few days’ time we will be announcing exactly how we will do that and by how much,” he added.

“Once we provide resources it is right that the forces themselves decide how it is spent.

“It’s clear to me that with the rise we’ve seen with crime, more complex crime in the last few years and in particular serious violence on our streets, that more has to be done.”

The home secretary said that meant more resources “in the immediate term” and more powers.

He called for the “better use” of existing measures like stop and search, and championed new proposed laws in the Offensive Weapons Bill, which is currently being considered by parliament.

Mr Javid, whose brother is a senior officer in West Midlands Police, received a warm welcome from police at the start of his tenure as home secretary earlier this year but is regarded as “on probation” until his promises of extra funding are realised.

Much of the touted increase to police budgets is expected to be driven by an increase in money taken from council tax bills for policing.

The chancellor, Philip Hammond, and communities secretary, James Brokenshire, are said to have provisionally agreed authorities can increase the precept charge on council tax bills from £1 a month to £2 a month.

The rise, which would come in in April, was also enacted last year could raise another £450m for forces in England and Wales.

Police and crime commissioners, who set budgets for the 43 police forces, accused the Treasury of “wiping out” last year’s increase with changes to pensions contributions.

Mark Burns-Williamson, chair of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, said work to plan for the future was “constantly being undermined by government announcements”.

“We raised the additional amounts on the basis of trying to carry out more recruitment, mainly police officers,” he told The Independent last month.

“The proposition of PCCs going out to the public next year to raise funding to cover Treasury shortfalls is hardly a message they will take kindly to.”

Police officer numbers have fallen by more than 20,000 in England and Wales since 2010, and many officers blame government cuts for worsening the drivers of crime and hampering the response.

MPs have warned that public trust in policing was “breaking down” as forces across the country struggle to respond to crime because of austerity.

(ONS
(ONS (ONS)

Many forces are implementing prioritisation systems that stop officers being deployed in-person to minor crimes, and some have seen local residents start up their own “patrols”.

Chief constable Mike Veale, of Cleveland Police, said last week that “things in policing are not ok” and officers do not have enough resources.

“The cuts created and caused by austerity are too deep and have gone on for too long,” he added.

“We have brilliant people doing a brilliant job but we do not have enough of them and the facts speak for themselves. It is about time that trend was reversed so that we can protect our communities.”

The government has insisted there is no causal link between nationwide cuts to police budgets and rising crime, including violence, robbery and burglary.

Chief Constable Veale acknowledged the drivers of changing police demand were “complex”, listing new technology and complex child abuse cases, but added that “no one in policing today can claim austerity isn’t a factor”.

Additional reporting by PA

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