I was unsurprised but disappointed at the Met’s refusal this week to reveal whether the budget for providing protection for senior officers will fall as part of the force’s spending cuts.
Whenever an organisation such as the Met can claim an exemption you can guarantee they’ll do so, but so often their rush to secrecy is self-harming and risks being especially so in this instance.
As part of significant budget cuts, ordinary Londoners are being asked to ‘do their bit’ and accept fewer dedicated Safer Neighbourhood officers and far fewer front counters.
Inside the Met, PCs and Sergeants are being told to accept fewer chances for promotion.
But what of the Met’s leadership, are they also making sacrifices? Are the budget cuts impacting on them? Or are the areas of policing and spending on which they rely being ring-fenced in secret?
Despite the Met’s predictable exemption claiming in response to my FOI, there’s a strong public interest in taxpayers seeing that the pains of less money are being felt by everyone.
Both in City Hall and beyond, questions have long been asked about the £1.5m spent every year on providing chauffeur-driven cars for senior Met officers.
That figure is equivalent to 80 full time officers who could be walking the beat. Which would Londoners prefer to fund? The recent MOPAC consultations on the spending cuts and resulting police and crime plan failed to ask.
Is there a sensible reason why officers can’t walk the short distance from Scotland Yard to Westminster and Tube it across to City Hall? If London’s Mayor can be seen walking and cycling around the capital, why not their most senior police officers?
Met Commissioners and their colleagues aren’t the household names they used to be, but perhaps the handful or so of Londoners who might recognise them would appreciate the chance to say ‘hello’ should they bump into them on the bus or Tube.
Met leaders who attend City Hall are often accompanied by a small army of aides, press officers and drivers, all of whom sit around for three hours while their bosses answer questions.
Is that how Londoners want their council tax precept spent by the Met?
For the public to accept and have confidence in the new policing model, they need to know that every last penny is being spent on the front line and that policing the streets for all Londoners is the Met’s overriding priority.
In its answer to my FOI the Met could have taken a welcome first step in providing that reassurance, sadly it flunked the opportunity.
I think they can do better and, while I’m not optimistic, I’ve asked them to reconsider their stance.