Calls to the Police relating to anti-social behaviour rose by over 160% during the first quarter of 2020/2021 and remain significantly higher than they were prior to the Covid-19 crisis. Violent crime has now also begun to rise sharply. How are you and the Met working to address these issues?
Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London): Thank you, Chair. Keeping Londoners safe is my top priority and as Mayor I am determined to tackle violence and antisocial behaviour. I know the distress that antisocial behaviour can cause our communities. That is why I have made combatting it a mandatory priority for all London boroughs and increased the number of Dedicated Ward Officers in our neighbourhoods. It is true that during the early stages of lockdown there was an increase in antisocial behaviour calls, although much of this was related to reports of people not adhering to Government guidelines. While the number of calls is still slightly higher than the same time last year, they have reduced considerably compared to the peak in April. The Commissioner [of Police of the Metropolis] has assured me that all officers are being encouraged to use the full range of powers to tackle antisocial behaviour when required.
Crime and violence fell as a result of lockdown but I was always clear that the causes of crime had not gone away. That is why the MPS has been working proactively through the Violent Crime Taskforce and the Violence Suppression Units, which are made up of 600 officers. Alongside this, we are continuing to address the underlying causes of crime. Through the Violence Reduction Unit, we have invested an additional £2.1 million to support projects over the summer and autumn that are dedicated to improving the wellbeing and opportunities of vulnerable young people and their families. As Mayor, I will continue to make the case that now is not the time to make cuts but the time to invest in our youth services, to invest in our communities and to invest in our police.
Unmesh Desai AM: Thank you, Mr Mayor. Mr Mayor, there have been over 1,000 unlicensed music events since the end of June  as London’s nightlife and music venues remained closed or restricted. These events not only cause significant disturbance to nearby residents but there have also been a number of incidents of serious violence occurring at them. How do you plan to deal with this issue specifically, which is likely to persist as nightlife venues remain closed?
Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London): A really important question. You are absolutely right, unlicensed music events can be unsafe, with high levels of antisocial behaviour and illegal activity, and can end in violence. The police are working with councils and other key partners. Also, one of the things we have learnt, Assembly Member Desai, is that early intervention can be really useful and successful. I support the Government’s increase in fines - the £10,000 fine - which acts as a deterrent. The police will continue to take action against unlicensed music events taking place across our city for the reasons you and I both said.
Unmesh Desai AM: Mr Mayor, the Government also last week made an announcement that new COVID Marshals were going to be introduced across the country. This announcement has baffled both local councils and the police alike. In fact, it has absolutely baffled rank‑and‑file officers according to Ken Marsh [Chair] of the Metropolitan Police Federation. It appears that Marshals will have no powers to properly enforce and there has been no funding announcement for councils to support their introduction.
Can you join me, Mr Mayor, in urging the Government to provide councils and police with more information on these Marshals in two respects, in particular their enforcement powers - as Ken Marsh again said, it will not make any difference to enforcement if they do not have the ability to enforce - and also, secondly, to make sure that is not cash‑strapped councils that are to pick up the bill for the introduction of these Marshals?
Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London): Absolutely. Chair, can I say the way the Assembly Member has asked his question illustrates the ridiculousness of this proposal from the Government around these Marshals. I have spoken to council leaders who are perplexed as to where these Marshals are going to come from and who is going to pay for them, aside from the practical problems identified by Assembly Member Desai around powers and all the rest of it. I will continue to try to find out what this means. None of us is any the wiser. It is another example of the confused communications and mixed messaging from this Government.
Unmesh Desai AM: Mr Mayor, thank you for your answers.