Government Funding for London

Questions to the Mayor of London – answered on 6th November 2019.

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Photo of Joanne McCartney Joanne McCartney Labour

Further to my Question number 2019/17690 regarding funding for extra police officers – what extra funding has been allocated to London so that you can start to reverse the swingeing cuts to the police and other public services that the government has made over the past 8 years?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Thank you, Chair. Any police officers for London are welcome but this funding represents only a very partial reversal of the huge Government cuts to the MPS since 2010. I have been clear that London needs at least 2,000 of the extra 6,000 officers promised nationally next year and I agree with the Commissioner that London could receive 6,000 of the 20,000 promised nationally over the next three years. The Government has allocated a bit more than the two-thirds of the officers that I have called for. I will keep pushing the Government to go further and faster in reversing its cuts so that we can properly tackle crime and violence.

I am also deeply concerned about the continuing uncertainty that remains over the funding of these new officers. The Government’s recent announcement has set a recruitment target for the MPS for 2020/21 far below the number of officers we need, but still failed to provide details of the specific funding from the £750 million it has announced. Given the Government’s apparent disregard for the significant challenges faced by a global city like London, I remain deeply concerned that the funding provided will be inadequate. A mere 23% of this funding to the MPS, in line with the officer numbers allocated, will ignore the additional challenges London faces and will leave the MPS and Londoners short-changed.

There is even less certainty in future years. While the £750 million announced in the spending round is welcomed, the Government has given no indication of whether this is one-off or long-term funding. The MPS cannot plan effectively for the future without funding certainty. This impacts its ability to deliver for Londoners. I have taken the initiative in providing some degree of certainty through an increase in the business rates base for the MPS. Although the Conservatives on the Assembly voted against my budget, our City Hall funding has made it possible to recruit 1,300 more officers than would otherwise be affordable had the Conservatives succeeded in that vote.

We urgently need the certainty of a multi-year funding settlement. Business rates are plugging only part of the gap the Government has created. The Government’s announcement then provides neither the officers nor the certainty necessary to deliver the policing London needs.

Photo of Joanne McCartney Joanne McCartney Labour

Thank you. That uncertainty is really worrying. The target is for the MPS to recruit 1,369 officers and that works out at around £99 million, which is a significant proportion of that early money. This week the Police and Crime Committee heard from Deputy Commissioner [Sir] Stephen House [QPM], who said, “We could train and deploy more than that. I do not think 1,369 is enough”. He asked the Government to realise that London needs to be considered separately because of the pressures on the force here. Is that a case you are making very strongly to Government?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Absolutely. One of the reasons why there is a NICC grant is because there is a recognition that London is different from other police forces around the country, other cities around the country. To give you a comparator, New York, a smaller size than London, has 37,000 police officers, significantly more police officers, but also significantly more police staff and other uniformed officers as well. That should be the comparator as far as London is concerned, not smaller police forces in smaller cities around the country.

Photo of Joanne McCartney Joanne McCartney Labour

Thank you. Of course you have mentioned police staff, which are an important part of our policing family, and you referred earlier to the cuts that have been made to date. Over the last eight or nine years, £850 million has been taken out of the police budget. They are still planning for a further £236 million in cuts to 2022/23, and what you have done is put in business rates. The MPS is using its reserves to try to stabilise the number of officers. This additional money is not going to make up for the austerity that has happened and the cuts that are still planned to be made. My question is: do you have any reassurance from Government that there is more funding to stop the further cuts? That, in effect, will cancel out any extra funding.

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

No, no assurance from the Government. If you remember, not at this recent Conservative Party conference but last year [The Rt Hon] Theresa May [MP for Maidenhead] said, “Austerity has ended”, and we thought we would get additional monies for public services.

I will just give you one example. When a police officer investigates a burglary, someone has to do forensics. There is analysis that needs to be undertaken. The cuts the Government has made over the last nine years mean that the police staff who assist front line officers to do their job have been hollowed out. The Government is talking about more police officers - no certainty about the numbers or how many we get in years going forward - but it is also not adding the additional sums of money we need for the whole system that the police need to properly prevent and investigate crime.

Photo of Joanne McCartney Joanne McCartney Labour

On the basis of what you have said and what the Government has failed to deliver so far, it looks like we still could have a cliff edge around 2023 with our police numbers dropping.

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

As things currently stand, the MPS is still facing a cliff edge in 2021/22. We are very worried not only about the issues you have raised but also things like pensions going forward as well, and it is really important the Government answers the serious questions we have urgently.