Boris Johnson has welcomed Chancellor George Osborne’s decision not to go ahead with planned cuts to police funding.
Budgets were expected to be slashed as part of the Government’s austerity programme, a move that Mr Johnson and Met Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe have repeatedly warned would reduce the forces’ officer count by thousands and undermine neighbourhood policing.
However announcing the results of his Spending Review on Wednesday, Mr Osborne said he would protect forces in England and Wales “in real terms,” telling MPs: “Now is not the time for further police cuts, now is the time to back our police and give them the tools to do the job.”
City Hall says the reprieve “will allow the capital to maintain neighbourhood teams” although the Met will have to make further efficiencies and savings to balance its books.
The force has already reduced back office posts and sold off hundreds of buildings in order to absorb earlier funding cuts.
Responding to the Chancellor’s announcement, Mr Johnson said: “Keeping London and Londoners safe is my number one priority as Mayor. That’s why I welcome today’s focus on keeping officer numbers high. It’s absolutely the right thing to do.”
“Further savings will be necessary, as we continue to streamline and reform the Met Police, but this settlement allows us to maintain those neighbourhood teams, whilst keeping officer numbers high, in our fight against terrorism, our drive to continue to reduce crime across London, and our determination to keep this city safe.”
Over the past few months the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime and Scotland Yard have considered a range of options to ensure the Met could cope with any further cuts, including proposals to sack all of its Police Community Support Officers.
Caroline Pidgeon, leader of the Liberal Democrat group on the London Assembly and her party’s candidate to succeed Mr Johnson next year, has called on the Mayor to drop these plans in light of today’s announcement.
She said: “It is welcome news that commonsense has obviously now prevailed and that serious plans to slash the grant to the Metropolitan Police Service have now been dropped by government.
“The challenge is now on the Mayor to also back down on his dangerous plans to scrap nearly every Police Community Support Officer in London, plans that would devastate neighbourhood policing in our city.”
However Labour’s leader at City Hall, Len Duvall AM, struck a more cautious note, commenting: “When you factor in inevitable increases in wages, pensions and training the Chancellor’s promise to “protect overall police spending in real terms” should be treated with caution.
“It’s increasingly clear that the Met remains at risk of significant cuts which could have a real impact on the future of frontline policing in the capital.”