Boris Johnson’s pledge to keep police officer numbers “at or around 32,000” could be impeding the Met’s modernisation according to the London Assembly.
Earlier this month the Mayor told Assembly Members he was concerned that allowing officer numbers to be cut would “take the pressure off the reductions that you should be making elsewhere.”
He added: “By putting a political accent or emphasis on the need for high police frontline officers, you will help to keep people focused on the need to make savings.”
The force has made a number of changes since 2012, including axing underused front counters and selling off buildings which are no longer deemed fit for operational use, to help meet a £500m budget cut.
Senior officers have recently warned that further Government spending cuts could leave them needing to find a further £600m of savings by 2020.
More than half of the Met’s annual budget is spent on officer pay and AMs warn that by blocking cuts to officer numbers the Mayor is imposing “a fixed cost” on the force and limiting its scope to review how to best serve Londoners.
John Biggs, chair of the Assembly’s Budget and Performance Committee, said AMs are also concerned that by focussing on officer numbers, Mr Johnson “will create a service that is lop-sided, without enough back office support.”
AMs’ concerns appear to be supported by official figures showing that the Met has paid out millions to hire in temporary agency staff to help support head office and operational officers after axing thousands of back office and civilian workers to help meet budget cuts.