Boris Johnson has signalled his willingness to allow Police officer numbers to fall.
Officer numbers were expected to fall to 31,957 in 2013 and remain at that level for the remainder of Johnson term of office, allowing him to keep his election promise of delivering 1,000 more officers than when he came to office in 2008.
Expected budget allocations for the Met had already prompted Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) to warn of a £232m black hole in the force’s finances.
Separately Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe has warned that budget cuts would reduce support for frontline officers, as civilian posts are cut.
London Assembly members from all parties have already expressed concern that officers are being taken off the streets to fill back office roles normally carried out by civilian staff.
In a letter to Deputy Mayor for Policing Stephen Greenhalgh, Johnson says he is now willing to consider budget options that keep officer numbers higher than when he took office but below the 31,957 level.
Johnson’s letter says: “I have committed to allow MOPAC to have sufficient resources to maintain police office numbers at higher levels than when I first came into office and have requested that your budget plans reflect this commitment.
“However, I am willing to consider a range of options that delivers on this commitment, ensures the safety of Londoners but does not necessarily require a budgets resource to finance police officer numbers at 31,957 over this administration.”
The Mayor’s draft budget is expected to be delayed this year following Chancellor George Osborne’s decision to hold his Autumn Statement on December 5th.
This means Government departments are as yet unable to confirm their level of funding and grants for City Hall.
The Mayor’s letter warns that “there remains considerable uncertainty over the levels of available funding that are to be announced in December”, although he suggests the Met budget will remain in line with his June prediction of £2,953.2m.
The letter also notes that the Government’s localisation of Council Tax benefit will reduce the amount of money the Met gets from Council Tax, requiring City Hall to make up the difference.
Despite the uncertainty surrounding central Government grants, the Mayor has committed himself a 10% cut in City Hall’s own share of the Council Tax, further limiting the amount he has to spend on delivering key services.
Joanne McCartney, Labour’s City Hall Police & Crime spokesperson, said the Mayor’s letter was “yet more evidence that the government are cutting too far, too fast and are hitting the front line.”
Ms McCartney added: “The HMIC were very clear that you could cut the police budget by 12% and not hit the front line. Instead of listening to expert advice the government cut the police budget by 20%, which is now hitting the front line. So far London has been shielded from the worst of the cuts because of the Olympics, it is now clear that the Mayor will not be able to deliver his election promises.”