Mayor Sadiq Khan has been accused of abandoning his commitment to have 32,000 Metropolitan police officers on the capital’s streets after only committing enough cash to maintain the force’s current strength of 31,000 officers.
The 32,000 target was originally set by former mayor Boris Johnson in order to prevent the Met’s leadership from meeting budget cuts by halting recruitment and allowing the frontline to thin.
As a result of this policy, the force culled its extensive property holdings and has drawn up ambitious plans to modernise its IT and back office functions in order to save money.
During last year’s Mayoral election all candidates competing to succeed Johnson committed themselves to maintaining his target but in his first budget Mayor Khan has proposed saving £38m by ‘recognising’ the Met’s current office count of around 31,000 officers.
By removing the money for the remaining officers from this year’s budget, the Mayor is in effect signalling that the target will not be met in the coming 12 months.
Liberal Democrat London Assembly Member Caroline Pidgeon says the mayor’s decision to reduce the budget in this way means “his strategic target of London having 32,000 police officers is meaningless.”
She added: “The Mayor is repeatedly on record as saying he backs the strategic target of London having 32,000 police officers, yet in his very first budget he want to remove the very means to achieve that target.
“If his budget is working on the assumption that in the year ahead the capital will have nearer to 31,000 police officers than 32,000, then that will become reality. If you don’t budget for 32,000 police officers you will never achieve that target.”
Conservative AM Gareth Bacon has also criticised Mr Khan, saying: “Even for a Mayor who has rowed back on almost all of his major pre-election pledges, this is an astonishing development.
“Just three weeks ago Sadiq Khan announced he was raising council tax in order to maintain a target of 32,000 police officers in London. Today he’s confirmed he is removing £38million from the Met’s police officer staffing budget, meaning it cannot afford to recruit any more than the current level of 31,000 officers.
“Does Sadiq Khan think he can just promise whatever seems popular at the time without having to deliver it? This kind of smoke and mirrors politics seriously undermines the office of the Mayor and could badly damage public confidence in London’s elected officials.”
However Sophie Linden, London’s Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime, described claims that the Mayor is pulling back from the target as “nonsense” and insisted City Hall was “firmly committed to maintaining the strategic target of 32,000 officers”.
She added: “While exact police numbers fluctuate throughout the year, our priority is keeping Londoners safe. That means keeping the number of police officers on our streets as high as possible, but in the face of continued central government cuts this is becoming increasingly difficult.
“The Mayor has done his bit, and found an additional £24.2m for the Met this year, and we continue to lobby the government to do their bit to provide the funding we need to ensure London remains protected.”