The Metropolitan Police has a £232m black hole in its finances according to a new report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC).
The HMIC also warns that the capital faces the loss of 1,410 police office posts and will have a lower share of officers on the front line than other areas and forces.
The report (Policing in Austerity: One Year On) measures the Met’s progress in meeting the challenges of the 2010 comprehensive spending review.
It states that the Met has yet to identify how it will find £232m of the £769m it needs to save by March 2015.
The inspectorate says “at some stage…the force will need to restructure in order to save money and improve services.”
The Mayor, who through the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPC) sets the Met’s strategic goals and budget, can raise funds for the force via City Hall’s share of the Council Tax.
The loss of revenue from those decisions will potentially make it harder for the Met to balance its books and may require larger cut backs than would otherwise be necessary.
The HMIC confirms that the overall Met workforce – police officers, PCSOs and civilian workers – will fall by 3,280 by March 2015. Of these 1,410 will be officer posts.
The report says the force will lose just 4% of officers compared to an average 10% reduction across England and Wales but despite this the proportion of police officers on the front line will be lower than the national figure.
The report appears to vindicate London Assembly members who have accused the Mayor of axing civilian posts in order to keep officer numbers artificially high and then using officers to fulfil back office roles.
In February Green Party AM Jenny Jones claimed the Mayor “has decided that the only way he can make the government cuts and keep the police numbers high, is by sacking civilian staff. The result is that we have more police sitting behind desks.”
Today’s report also finds that the Met has the lowest satisfaction level of any English or Welsh police service. Just 74% of victims in the MPS area say they were satisfied with the service they received.
HMIC’s Stephen Otter said: “The Metropolitan Police Service is working to address the financial challenge of the 2010 spending review, and has identified considerable savings. However, it needs to find another £232m before it can balance its books – and currently has no plans to outline how this will be achieved.
“As well as finding these savings, the force must also address its low victim satisfaction levels, and high crime rates. Both the Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime and the MPS Commissioner have declared a firm intention to deal with these issues.”
Mr Otter added: “Although it is making progress in bringing down overall crime, by 2013 the MPS will have a lower proportion of its workforce in frontline, crime-fighting roles than most other forces. As the force develops its plans it should look to address this, to help reduce its crime levels and keep the public in London safe.”
Commenting on the report, a spokesperson for the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime said: “The Mayor is determined to put all available resources into making London the safest city in the world. He recognises the significant budgetary challenges facing the Met and will be doing everything in his power to help ensure police strength is not affected.
“The Mayor has already delivered £43 million extra funding to boost recruitment and secured £90 million from the government to help maintain numbers. The Mayor will be challenging the Commissioner after the Olympics to make further savings of £50 million in the current financial year.”
Joanne McCartney, Chair of the London Assembly Police and Crime Committee which scrutinises the MOPC, said: “The conclusions of the HMIC report should impress on Mayor Boris Johnson and his Deputy Stephen Greenhalgh the need for a plan getting to grips with the budgetary challenges facing the Met. They must show that they recognise, as HMIC does, the scale of the problem for policing in the capital as cuts bite.”
McCartney said her committee would be “delving into progress on the Met’s main savings programme” at a meeting with Mr Greenhalgh later this week.