The impact is stark yet simple: crime is going up
No cuts to the frontline. That’s what was promised when Theresa May set out her first round of policing cuts in 2010’s spending review. Since then in London we’ve seen 1,414 police officers, 2,718 PCSOs and 63 police stations axed.
It seems clear the home secretary’s definition of frontline is quite a world apart from the rest of us.
Fast forward to 2015 and already concern is mounting about the cuts to be unveiled in the next spending review penned in for 25 November. In 2010 the Met, which is also the lead force for counter-terrorism and many other national crimes, saw its budget cut by 20 per cent or roughly £600m.
The latest estimates from the Police and Crime Commissioners Treasurers’ Society (PACCTS) seen by the Guardian newspaper reportedly predict further cuts of up to 43 per cent to the Met’s budget by 2020. That would mean between 2010 and 2020 the Met had lost over half its funding.
With much of the low hanging fruit now gone, the next round of cuts is going to hurt more than ever. Up until now the debate has centred on whether we can maintain police numbers at current levels, around 32,000. With around 80 per cent of the Met’s budget spent on staffing costs it’s clear this scale of cut would blow that ambition out of the water.
There is no doubt that cuts of 43 per cent would absolutely decimate London’s police force. It’s inconceivable that the Metropolitan police would be able to survive in its current form if this scale of ‘savings’ were enforced.
The comparatively limited 20 per cent cuts already passed down from government have been debilitating. It’s not just a vast number of individual officers we’ve already lost but also the ability to do things the public wholeheartedly support. One consequence has been the demise of local neighbourhood policing in favour of a cheaper area-based approach, with teams of six cut down to only two officers in each ward.
The impact is stark yet simple: crime is going up. Over the last 12 months overall crime has risen by 3.5 per cent. That’s an additional 24,343 crimes to deal with. This hides within it some worrying trends. Whilst crimes like burglary are down, some of the most serious crimes, for example violent offences including stabbings, have spiked 24 per cent in the last year, that’s an additional 40,748 violent offences.
These are the kinds of crimes which frontline local knowledge and intelligence are key to preventing.
Add on to this a soaring population and the dramatic increase in the reporting of other crimes like rape and sexual offences, and it’s clear that if anything the Met needs more resources, not less.
The PACCTS predicted cuts of 43 per cent to the Met and large cuts to other urban forces have led to threats of legal action from the West Midlands and Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioners. Unless the home secretary is straight with police forces the nervous storm clouds will continue to grow.
The government’s decision to consult on the ‘principles’ of a new funding formula, the process by which the Home Office decide which force gets what, without giving any indications of what the changes would mean in practice tells you a lot. Nobody, not even the Home Office, wants to face up to the true scale of the pain to come.
With crime beginning to rise in the capital, and demands from national duties such as counter-terrorism continuing to grow, it’s not clear how the much of the Met’s slimmed down budget will actually be left to police the streets of the capital. This cannot, and should not, be acceptable to the home secretary, whatever her questionable definition of ‘frontline’.
Joanne McCartney AM is Labour’s London Assembly policing spokesperson
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