I am concerned about the Metropolitan Police’s ability to deal with £800m of further budget cuts without a significant impact on frontline services after Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe was forced to deny suggestions that budget cuts could stop the force investigating low level crimes such as burglaries.
Despite the Commissioner’s assurance, officers are already struggling to deal with some crimes as a result of budget cuts. Since 2010, when the Met’s budget was cut by £600m, the percentage of domestic burglaries in London which are solved by the police has halved from 12% in 2010/11 to only 6% in 2014/15.
In Westminster it is an equally concerning situation. 90% of the 3231 domestic and non-domestic burglaries reported in Westminster over the last 12 months have gone unsolved according to the latest annual figures from the Metropolitan Police. Whilst the Met has changed the way it records some crimes, the figures still mean that over 2895 burglaries went unsolved in Westminster last year. The figures showed the police were already stretched too thinly, with crimes such as burglary not given the resources they previously were.
Since 2010 the Metropolitan police force has cut £600m from its budget and is expected to face a further £800m cut in the Government’s Autumn Spending Review. Whilst the Commissioner has pledged the Met will continue to investigate burglaries he has admitted that there would have to be “a compromise somewhere” saying “we are going to struggle to do everything we used to do.” Even the Mayor of London recently admitted that “you cannot have a city growing as fast as London, with the challenges London faces, without putting more money into the MPS.”
Earlier this month it was reported that the Metropolitan Police are planning to cut all PCSOs. The move would mean the police will not have the local intelligence needed to drive down burglaries.
740 uniformed officers have already been cut from Westminster’s streets since 2010 with dedicated neighbourhood policing teams also cut from six to only two officers each. Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe has accepted that the forthcoming cuts mean London will “end up with some less police, but I am not going to be precise.”
The Commissioner was forced to deny burglary would no longer be investigated after comments from Sara Thornton, the head of the new National Police Chiefs’ Council suggesting that in the future police officers may no longer attend burglaries as a result of strains on their time and resources.
The fact that 90% of burglaries are going unsolved in Westminster shows that London’s police service is already being stretched to the limit. With the Met’s plans to cut all PCSOs likely to undermine vital links with communities, the police simply won’t have the local intelligence needed to drive down burglaries.
For many Londoners the idea mooted by Ms Thornton that in the future the police may no longer be able to investigate some types of crime will be deeply disturbing. Whilst there is definitely a debate to be had about the role of the police in the 21st century, we cannot pretend that the Government’s cuts are not already having a profound and damaging effect on frontline policing.
With another £800m of cuts coming down the tracks, the Mayor looks set to leave London with a far thinner blue line than when he came to power in 2008. That should be a worry to all of us, particularly given the Commissioner has said this scale of cut means the Met is going to struggle to provide the service Londoners are used to.