The latest round of government budget cuts will require the Metropolitan Police to make changes “right across” the force if it’s to deliver a policing model which is sustainable in the longterm, Deputy Commissioner Craig Mackey has told MayorWatch.
Having already made more than £600m in savings over the past four years, Scotland Yard is facing a further budget cuts of around £400m. The exact scale of cuts won’t be known for some months, meaning managers have had to draw up a range of potential savings to be implemented once the final budget settlement is announced by ministers.
Mr Mackey, who is currently heading the force until the arrival of new Commissioner Cressida Dick next month, said he and other Scotland Yard bosses faced a choice between simply slashing internal budgets to meet the reduced funding or re-examining how the force delivers services.
He told this site: “What we’ve done…is spend a lot of time planning what this could look like going forward 3, 5 or 10 years out.”
This work is expected to culminate in a radical and, in some quarters, controversial move away from the Met’s traditional borough-based policing and the creation of a new cluster approach where borough commanders are replaced by multi-borough managers able to relocate resources to meet emerging needs.
Trials of cluster teams are currently underway in two areas but, at a recent meeting of the London Assembly’s police and crime committee, which scrutinises the Met’s work, Sophie Linden, the deputy mayor for policing and crime, said some local council leaders were “nervous” about the change.
Senior councillors in both of the trial clusters, who have asked not to be named, have expressed concerns to this site that the new local commanders will be pressed to make themselves available to local politicians and leaders in the short term in order to win backing for the new model, but that this access would dry up once the new structure was rolled out across London.
Asked whether this could happen, Mackey said: “I hope not, but I can understand that concern. People always, whether its a change in our own personal life or whether it’s change in a work environment, people always have concerns.”
Acknowledging that changes are “not always welcomed with open arms,” he said: “if you’ve got to save money you either take money out of senior managers and leaders and roles like mine, or you take it out of the frontline.
“The reality is that those new leaders, we’re asking them to take on much bigger roles in terms of what we’re doing and we’re spending a lot of time working with local leaders and local authorities across London to say ‘how do we get the right fit of people to work in those roles?”
“So I think it is sustainable medium to long term in terms of those things, but those changes I think are essential.”
Alongside the changes to local command structures, the Met is also looking to cut costs by ditching many of its smaller custody suites and moving to fewer but larger custody hubs.
London Assembly members have questioned whether the change will see officers spending more time driving between boroughs to process detainees, but the deputy commissioner says that although the organisation is looking to save money by implementing changes in how it works, “that doesn’t mean things can be worse.”
He added: “We’re absolutely clear you can be a smaller, more efficient and more effective organisation. That’s absolutely the goal of doing the work around transformation.”
“We know that there’s going to be less and less money going forward so we plan the organisation to say ‘look, where can we save money, how can we do things that are fundamentally different but at the same time improve the services for London?’”