Policing briefing June 18

The problem is that the Metropolitan Police is underfunded, due to massive cuts in its budget from Central Government resulting in a significant loss of police officers across  London

The Conservative Government has imposed cut after cut on the Met.’s budget. Since 2010, the Met.’s Government grant funding has fallen by more than £700 million, nearly 40 per cent in real terms, with yet more to come. By the end of the current budget cycle in two years’ time, the total shortfall will amount to £1 billion. This is compounded by the Government’s consistent failure to meet only half the costs of London’s capital city function, a gap of a further  £170 million.  For this year, they  awarded the police a well deserved 2% pay rise- but then refused to fund it, adding to budget pressures.

Boris Johnson as Conservative Mayor also  failed to increase the policing precept in the Council Tax: we are also paying the price of that de facto cut too, 2% a year compounded over 8 years of his rule has had a big impact that cannot be made back up

All this deliberate underfunding has led to the loss of a third of police staff posts – down from 14,330 to 9,985, and two-thirds of PCSOs– down from 4,607 to 1,591, as well as 114 police station front counters and 120 police buildings, with   borough mergers also needed to save costs too. We have lost thousands of police officers. It is hardly surprising that crime has gone up by 5% in London- and even more in the rest of the country.

Mayor Sadiq Khan  has repeatedly warned that with yet further cuts needed due to Government funding cuts, the Met is running out of options . London’s police officer numbers have already fallen to just below  30,000; and by 2021, numbers could fall significantly lower –which presents a serious risk to Londoners’ safety.

Contrast this with  the 36,000 officers under the last Labour Mayor and Labour Government. When I was Hendon’s Labour MP , these officer numbers enabled me to negotiate with the then Commissioner a Safer Neighbourhood Team of 9- a sergeant, 2 PCs and 6 PCSOs – for each ward in Barnet. Now, we are down to 2PCs and 1 PCSO per ward.

The Mayor’s council tax for the current year 2018/19 includes an overall 5.1 per cent increase to his precept.  All of the proceeds will go to the Metropolitan Police and the London Fire Brigade. This will enable the Met. to maintain an average of around 30,000 officers for the year. £20.1m will be allocated to cover the cost of the police pay increase, as well as an extra £15m. for knife crime. The remaining £13.9 m will be available to maintain officer numbers.

The Mayor is also giving an additional £55m to the Met. so they do not have to borrow  for police buildings and new technology,  saving over £3 million in interest charges. He will also provide £5m to fund officers as the Met.’s recruitment drive starts.

From 2019-20, Sadiq will also invest £59m a year helping avoid falling officer numbers at this crucial time: it will save 1,000 police officer posts that would otherwise be unaffordable. This will come from  business rates income.  Even so, as funding pressures mount, officer numbers are still expected to fall below 30,000 in 2021.

So with the Government still refusing to act in the face of recorded violent crime, including knife crime and moped attacks, across the capital, the Mayor is taking the difficult decisions   to keep officer numbers up so far as he is able to do, but he cannot raise the funds needed to get back to the 36,000 officers we need.

Andrew Dismore AM

Labour London Assembly Member for Barnet and Camden