My latest article for Progress.
Despite facing ever-more cuts, the Metropolitan Police has done an admirable job keeping Londonders safe. Now the government must give it the resources they need, argues Catherine West MP
It has been an intensely difficult year to keep Londoners safe. Against the backdrop of rising reported crime, terror attacks and tragedies such as Grenfell, the Metropolitan Police’s budget continues to come under mounting attack.
Since 2010, the Met has had to find £600m in savings and is expected to find another £400m by 2021. Meanwhile, chair of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, chief constable Sarah Thornton just last month confirmed that police funding for counter terrorism set to fall by seven per cent over the next three years.
Police stations are closing and neighbourhood policing is under attack. Visibly we are seeing the closing of police stations across the capital, with half of London’s remaining 73 police station counters set to close, including a number in Hornsey and Wood Green, and fewer police officers on the street. Across the United Kingdom and into London there are 20,000 fewer police officers than at its peak in 2010, with 924 fewer than last year alone.
It is these startling statistics that have led the Police Federation to brand the figures ‘deeply worrying and disappointing’.
But our constituents are also worried. In my surgeries I regularly see concerned citizens worried about the rise in reported crime, including gun, knife and moped crime. Simply put, many Londoners feel unsafe in their city.
Ever-more austerity, ever-more cuts, the ever-more inevitable closing of public services. There is a deep sense now that decisions taken by the government are by-passing us completely, failing to take into account the views of those affected.
The government argues that the police are able to do more with less, but crime is increasingly reported and increasingly violent – including gun, knife and moped crime – people need to feel that the government is investing in their safety.
Our emergency services put themselves in harm’s way every single day to protect us. Our police keep us safe, they are dedicated and they act in a professional way despite cuts to their resources.
In the upcoming budget, the government has an opportunity to reverse course, to put us back on the right track and prize the safety of Londoners. It must increase overall police funding in real terms in November.
The police must be given the resources they need, not 20,000 police cuts. The mayor of London has warned that our city faces losing up to 4,000 police officers at a time of unprecedented challenges and that the £400m that still need to be found may endanger the safety of Londoners.
Just this month deputy assistant commissioner Mark Simmons told us that the Metropolitan Police are to stop investigating lower level crimes as a result of these cuts – including assaults and burglary, while the Met has sold off almost £1bn worth of London property over the past five years to breach its gap in funding.
And while police officers deserve their overdue pay rise, it has fallen on the the Met’s existing and under-attack budget to find the money, causing £10.7m of additional pressure. This needs to come from the central government. The mayor has already increased the council tax police precept last year to fill some of the gap, but it is not enough.
Some 70 per cent of the Met’s funding comes from the Home Office and as such it must wake up and realise that without urgent action, the head count will fall further. We can not protect our communities on the cheap.
It has been a difficult year in keeping London and Londoners safe, with rising crime and escalating terrorist incidents. Throughout these events, our Metropolitan Police has risen to the challenges. Let our government now do the same.