London is growing, so why is the police force shrinking?

By next year there will have been £600 million worth of cuts to London's police

 

The forecast from UK police chiefs that at least a further 22,000 officers will be lost from frontline policing comes as another blow to forces across England and Wales.

In the past five years the Home Office has cut back on police officers, PCSOs, neighbourhood policing and civilian staff. Further government cuts will be deeply felt in London, where the Metropolitan Police will have seen £1.4 billion worth of cuts between 2010 and 2020 – 20 per cent of their total budget.

By next year there will have been £600 million worth of cuts to London police. This has meant that despite the mayor promising to keep officer numbers stable, he has operated below his target of 32,000 officers three-quarters of the time.

Add this to the 61 per cent reduction in PCSOs, who made up the bulk of our neighbourhood policing teams, and there are significantly fewer police officers and reduced police visibility on our streets. This means fewer local police officers, whose main role is to engage with communities at a grassroots level. These officers establish important relationships, are integral to linking the community with the police, and provide vital intelligence for the Met.

It’s not just police officers being cut – over 3,000 police staff have also lost their jobs. It’s these staff who provide essential frontline policing functions and support to warranted officers. In order to deal with these requirements, the mayor has instead started to outsource MPS administrative functions; only last week they entered into a 10-year deal with company Shared Services Connected Limited (SSCL), meaning that three sections of MPS ‘back room administrative’ jobs  will be moved out of London.

Against a backdrop of cuts like this, the further £800 million of cuts planned for the Met will be devastating. The mayor’s own deputy has warned that as we get closer to 2020, police numbers will start to fall off a ‘cliff edge’. Currently the number of police officers is about 31,700, but it’s not hard to see how that could quickly plummet given that around 80 per cent of the Met’s costs go on staff, and the commissioner has already conceded police numbers will have to fall further.

Worryingly, after more than a decade of falling crime levels, over the last twelve months we have seen an increase in total notifiable offences of 3 per cent. This has been driven largely by violent crime offences which have spiked by almost a third compared with the last twelve months. There have also been increases in stabbings of under-25s and serious youth violence, with offences increasing by 14 per cent and 6 per cent respectively.

These are trends that cannot be ignored. There needs to be a stronger mayor for London, who is prepared to stand up to the government and secure a deal to keep London safe.

Joanne McCartney AM is Labour’s London Assembly policing

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