letter for publication rebuttal re JLC on policing June 19
I see Jessica Learmond-Criqui (last week’s letters section) has woken up after a seemingly prolonged period of silence on the same issue of police numbers. However, it will not surprise readers that I completely disagree with all the main points of her letter.
Ms Learmond-Criqui knows all too well that the drop in police officer numbers we have seen across the capital is the direct result of the swingeing and reckless Conservative Government cuts (£1 billion by the end of the current public sector funding round) on top of those implemented by the then Mayor Boris Johnson, which went even further due to his refusal to increase the police precept. It is disappointing, but perhaps predictable that Ms Learmond-Criqui underplays this root cause of fewer police officers in her published letter.
At least she is honest enough to admit to the abject failure of her petition to encourage Camden residents to sign-up to the substantial council tax precept increase that would be needed to plug the gap in police funding. This is important, because any council tax rise beyond that introduced by the Mayor in the current financial year ( and which is all going to the police, with a small share for the Fire Brigade) would require approval in a referendum of Londoners. The failure of her petition shows there is no prospect of that being achieved and all that would result is the waste of the millions such a referendum would cost – and which I hope she would acknowledge is better spent on front line policing.
I would suggest Ms Learmond-Criqui might be more successful if she started a petition on the Government website to lobby the Conservatives to drop their plans to inflict yet more cuts to the Met’s budget, reaching over £1bn by 2023 and to restore cuts that have already been made with such difficult consequences.
Halfway through her letter, after expressing her dismay at the Donald Trump blimp, Ms Learmond-Criqui veers further off-track to complain about transport funding in London. She says the Mayor should pay for Hammersmith Bridge repairs: but where does the money for that come from? The £50 million Boris Johnson wasted on the Garden Bridge could have funded this, but that money has already been wasted.
Sadly, TfL’s funding follows a similar story to policing, with the Conservative Government having axed £700 million a year from TfL’s budget since 2018. TfL has now become one of the only transport authorities in the whole world not to receive any central Government funding for day-to-day running costs.
Her suggestion that the Mayor should do away with his staff budget and funding for other projects to pay for police numbers lacks substance. If the Mayor were to adopt this strategy, investment in vital work such as improving air quality, planning and delivering more desperately needed affordable homes, and preparing London for Brexit – and given how the Conservative leadership election is shaping up a reckless no deal and unwelcome Brexit- would disappear.
Moreover, even if all these and many other vital services and projects were cut, the total amount that would be freed up for policing would still be a small fraction of what would be needed to replace the cuts caused by the scale of Government underfunding.
We have suffered almost a decade of austerity, with the Conservative Government passing on its duty of care to Londoners to our poorly funded and beleaguered public authorities and third sectors. It’s high-time the Conservatives, and their new leader whoever it turns out to be, started to take responsibility for their actions.
London Assembly Member for Barnet and Camden