Scotland Yard warns of policing cuts if budget reduces officer numbers

Metropolitan police deputy commissioner says force could only concentrate on ‘basic’ work if head count falls to 27,500 by 2021

Scotland Yard will be unable to provide some services at all in future if budget constraints force the number of officers in the capital to fall as low as is feared, a senior officer has warned.

On Monday, the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said the Metropolitan police could end up with fewer then 27,500 officers by 2021 – the smallest number in nearly two decades – as a result of the financial pressures it is facing.

Hours later, the force’s deputy commissioner, Craig Mackey, said that would put it under such strain that it would have to rethink whether it could cover everything it currently does.

The warnings, which came a day after police and crime commissioners said forces in England and Wales would need an extra £1.3bn in the two years to 2021, will put added pressure on the chancellor to allocate extra money in the upcoming budget.

“If we do face a scenario of 27,500 officers by 2021, we will have to reduce or stop some things. We will have to concentrate on crimes which cause the most harm to people,” Mackey said in a statement on Monday.

He said the force could become “less proactive” and work it does in schools to prevent young people falling into extremism and terrorism could be hit.

Mackey added: “We may have to scale back our response – both on the phone and on the ground to concentrate on the biggest emergencies. And we will have to look again at some of our specialisms – can we really afford them when we can’t afford what many rightly see as basic policing? What should we investigate and how thoroughly?”

Police forces, including the Met, have issued similar warnings recently. In August, Mackey said the force would increasingly need to prioritise who they respond to in person and the Met acknowledged this month that less serious crimes were unlikely to be followed up if there was little chance of finding the culprit.

On Monday, Khan warned that, without extra funding, the capital would be left with “one police officer per 326 Londoners, compared to one officer per 242 Londoners in 2010 – a fall of 26%”.

He called on Whitehall to provide more money, saying people’s safety was being put at risk “at a time when the population is rising, crime is rising and we face an unprecedented terrorist threat. The government has the power to stop this”.

Khan added: “If the chancellor does not use next month’s budget to end the long-term cuts to policing and put public safety first, then we will have no choice but to reduce our frontline.”

On Sunday, the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APPC) said the increasing quantity and complexity of crimes being committed meant forces across the country needed more financial support.

“The police workforce has been reduced by nearly 19% over the last seven years and at a time when the population is growing and the sheer complexity of policing is increasing, it is clear that more funding is required if we are going to deliver the right level of service for the public,” said Paddy Tipping, the APCC’s finance deputy head.

The government protected the overall amount of money it gave to the police nationally in 2015 but critics have pointed out that the way that money is allocated and the increasing costs forces face mean many have seen real-terms budget cuts.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “There are more officers for each Londoner than anywhere else in the country. The government has protected overall police spending in real terms since spending review 2015 and has also announced additional funding for counter-terrorism policing.”

The department said the London Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime, which is responsible for oversight of the Met, held £240m in “usable resource reserves at March 2017”, while the Greater London Authority had reserves of £350m.


Kevin Rawlinson

The GuardianTramp

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