Steve O’Connell is the Conservative spokesman on the London Assembly for crime and policing.
Anyone and everyone who has ever been, or wanted to be, the Mayor of London has proclaimed that the safety and security of Londoners is their number one priority. Equally, all those who have been the Mayor of London – including the current Mayor, Sadiq Khan – have reaffirmed their commitment to London having around 32,000 police officers.
However, the current Mayor – who said keeping families and communities safe was his “top priority”, and who said he had a “strategic target of 32,000 [police] officers” – has taken the decision to renege on his promises and cut the number of police officers in London.
While it’s important to be clear that police numbers in London are never static, with officers retiring after years of service, or relocating, alongside new recruits joining – City Hall and the Met Police have always maintained the police-wide target of 32,000 police officers.
In order to work towards this target, the Met Police received funding levels that ensured that we were able to have 32,000 police officers on the payroll. Not anymore.
Sadiq Khan’s first budget as Mayor of London included a cynical reduction of £38 million from police staffing expenditure, buried deep within the Met Police’s budget. That’s the exact funding which is required to increase the current number of police officers in London up to 32,000.
Without this funding, it is completely impossible for the Met Police to have 32,000 officers.
Therefore, Sadiq Khan’s “strategic target” of 32,000 police officers is entirely meaningless because it simply cannot be achieved. He could just as easily claim he wanted London to have 350,000 police officers, because if there isn’t enough funding there is no way the target will be met.
Sadiq Khan has claimed this funding is only being reduced for one year – but there’s an important caveat. His Deputy Mayor, Sophie Linden, has said the funding being reinstated will be dependent on what level of funding City Hall and the Met Police receives from the Government next year.
It’s true that the funding provided by Government for policing London is a hotly contested topic – and it’s also true that on the horizon there is due to be a wholesale rethinking of the way police forces across the UK are funded.
It’s also true that previous iterations of such reforms did reduce the funding London received for policing. However, this funding formula was abandoned following consistent and successful lobbying from the former Mayor of London Boris Johnson, former Deputy Mayor Stephen Greenhalgh, and then Mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith.
Rather than prepare the grounds to secure London’s much needed policing funding and sensibly approaching the Met Police’s budget, Sadiq Khan is rehearsing his political attack lines.
When you’re dealing with a budget in the billions, it is fair to suggest that, should he have wanted to, Sadiq Khan could have found the £38 million required to protect police officer numbers. Indeed, this funding could be found by finding five per cent inefficiencies in all non-staff budgets (£38.2m).
Sadiq Khan is simply laying the foundations for a future battle with the Government which he knows he’ll lose. He will then look to blame the ‘Tory Government’ for cutting policing in the Capital.
Showing his true colours, and exposing his most New Labour traits, Sadiq Khan is preparing to play politics with the safety of Londoners – and ultimately blame the Government for his shortcomings and short-sightedness.
Cutting the number of police officers in London is yet another broken promise from Sadiq Khan, and he is fast running out of promises he’s made that are left to be broken.
As Sadiq Khan prepares to publish the final draft of his budget, Conservatives on the London Assembly will demand he honours his commitment to fully fund the police and ensure London has the officers it needs.