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Mayor’s starkest warning yet on police funding
- Police officer numbers could fall below 30,000 by 2019, the lowest since 2003
- Funding formula review should be scrapped and the funding settlement and Capital Cities Grant urgently increased
- Recruitment decisions must be made now by the Met and MOPAC, so urgent action needed by Government before the autumn budget
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan on Wednesday 19 July called for urgent confirmation that the Government is to abandon its unwelcome funding formula review and that police funding will be increased, ending years of underfunding and real-terms cuts, to ensure crisis is averted and the capital can be kept safe.
Sadiq Khan delivered his starkest warning yet that continued uncertainty and inaction from Government and the alarming scale of the police funding crisis will make a significant and sustained reduction in officer numbers inevitable: in the next two years, they risk falling below 30,000 for the first time since 2003, simply to balance the books.
Sustained real-terms Government cuts have left the Mayor and the Met no choice. Since 2010, more than £600m of savings have already been made. Front counters have closed, buildings have been sold, and 2,800 PCSOs and police staff posts have been lost. A further £400m of savings are needed by 2021 because the flat budget settlement provided by the Government fails to take any account of the increasing demand or inflationary pressure on policing.
All opportunities for generating more income or making substantial savings are already being taken. Yet crime is increasing, in volume, complexity and harm. London’s population will reach a record 10m by 2030. Terrorism remains a constant and evolving threat.
Budgeting timetables for police forces mean that decisions – such as recruitment plans – must be made months in advance of the next financial year if they are to take effect in time to fit within the limits of the annual budget. This means the current number of officers cannot be maintained without certainty of next year’s and future funding. The only option is to turn off recruitment completely.
These are extraordinary circumstances, and the Mayor is urgently demanding immediate action – before the Government’s autumn budget - to avoid serious damage to the London’s police service now and for years to come. It is within the Government’s gift.
A reduction in officer numbers will mean more pressure on the already overstretched teams who protect the most vulnerable Londoners, and reductions in proactive and preventative work to tackle serious, organised crime and terrorism. It will also limit the capacity to respond to large-scale incidents and maintain a heightened police presence for any length of time.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “At a time of rising crime and unprecedented threat, we are facing a funding crisis in our police service that only the Government can help to avert. The alarming scale of the pressure means Londoners’ safety is at risk. We are at a cliff-edge.
“If Ministers do not act now to confirm they will scrap the funding formula review and increase funding through the annual settlement and by properly reimbursing the Met for the work undertaken because of our capital city status, the safety of our city hangs in the balance and we will have no choice but to stop recruiting and prepare to reduce our frontline.
“Home Office cuts have already lost us 2,800 PCSOs and staff, most of our police station front counters, and 120 police buildings as we have sought to protect the frontline. I have increased the council tax precept, and provided additional funding wherever I can. But it is not enough.
“If the Government doesn’t act now we risk our police officer numbers falling below 30,000 for the first time since 2003, at a time when we need them most. For every day the Government delays, we come a day closer to facing inevitable and extremely difficult decisions that will affect the safety of Londoners not just for now, but potentially far into the future.”
The Mayor laid bare his concerns in a letter to the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, and called for:
- A significant real-terms increase in the Police Grant, so that the front line can be protected and the crime and safety challenges we face can be met
- The full funding of the National and International Capital Cities (NICC) Grant, to reflect the true – and accepted – additional costs that come with policing the capital
- An announcement, now, that the Government has abandoned its funding formula review
The Mayor has done everything he can to provide additional funds and protect the frontline. He has increased the council tax precept by the maximum percentage possible. But the extra £11m it provides is just a fraction of what is needed.
Last week, he was left no choice but to open a consultation on the closure of further front counters in order to save a further £10m in annual running costs. By the end of this process, London may have as few as 32 front counters left open to the public – only one per Borough. In 2008, there were 149.