London ‘won’t get 3,000 more police’

·5-min read
 (REUTERS)
(REUTERS)

Hopes of London receiving an extra 3,000 police officers to boost the fight against crime are set to be dashed, one of Sadiq Khan’s top aides has admitted.

Sophie Linden, the deputy mayor for policing and crime, said it would be “quite a stretch” for the Government to further boost the number of Met police officers as it would mean other parts of the country losing out.

Her comments, as she was unanimously reconfirmed in her £127,513 job by the cross-party London Assembly, came as Mr Khan on Thursday announced extra funding for a project to help young Londoners escape gangs amid fears of summer violence as the lockdown ends.

Mr Khan’s 2021 election manifesto vowed to fight “for the Government funding London needs to recruit more police officers” but did not include a specific target.

Latest figures show the Met had 32,392 officers last month, plus 1,251 PCSOs and almost 10,000 civilian staff.

In November 2019 the Government promised an extra 20,000 officers across the country, of which the Met has received about 3,000 – half the number requested by Met commissioner Dame Cressida Dick and Mr Khan.

Ms Linden said: “We are just below about 3,000 additional officers. In the next year we need that to double. I think that is going to be quite a stretch for the Government.”

The number of Met officers has remained above 32,000 for each of the last 12 months, helped by Mr Khan’s decision to raise council tax and divert business rates to fund 1,300 officers.

Ms Linden said the Met was underfunded by the Government by £159m. She said the Mayor backed the wish of Dame Cressida for 6,000 of the extra 20,000 officers promised nationally to be given to London.

“In the last two allocations we have fallen short of that,” she said. “In the next allocation, we will continue to press [for the 6,000].

“I do understand [the Government’s] predicament. They have said 20,000 officers for the whole of the country. If they then give the Met 3,000 they are going to be taking from elsewhere, and everywhere in the country has suffered because of police cutbacks. We will continue to make that case.

“I know, and the Home Office ministers know, if you want to bring violent crime down in the country, you need to bring violent crime down in London.”

During the mayoral campaign, asked by the Standard how many police would be in post by 2024 if he won a second term, Mr Khan said: “I want to be honest with Londoners. It depends how successful we are negotiating the third year of the 20,000 officer deal. The bad news is that the Government has only given us around 1,300 [a year] in the first two years.”

Ms Linden said one of her priorities for her second term of office would be to drive forward efforts to reduce violence against women and girls. Challenged on whether she was too low profile, she promised to get out of City Hall “to ensure I’m engaging with Londoners” and “listen to those people who are most in need of our services”.

The assembly is to write to Mr Khan backing her reappointment but with “caveats” requiring her to help rebuild confidence in the Met and tackle “spiralling” crime.

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Former Tory mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey, now the party’s police spokesman on the London Assembly, said: “London needs many more police officers on the beat to keep our city safe. The Government is committed to giving London its fair share of the 20,000 extra police officers they plan to recruit.

“So far, the Met has received £330 million from the Home Office to fund an additional 2,738 police officers, and more is on the way.

“As Mayor, Sadiq Khan hasn’t put his money where his mouth is when it comes to police numbers. He’s repeatedly funded virtue-signalling projects, spin and PR stunts instead of investing in policing in London.

“Londoners have given him a second chance to tackle crime. In his second term, Khan must use his enormous budget to deliver the officers our city needs."

On Thursday Mr Khan said he would provide a further £750,000 to take funding for the London Gang Exit programme from £1.16m to £1.91m.

In the year to March, it worked with 275 young people but had reached its capacity. The programme provides one-to-one mentoring support and help with employment, training, housing, family and relationships.

More than half of shootings and nearly one quarter of homicides in London are believed to be linked to gangs, according to City Hall.

Mr Khan said: “Tackling violence and supporting young Londoners to turn their lives around by providing positive life opportunities are key priorities for me in my second term as Mayor.

“As restrictions begin to ease in London and across the country, it’s really important that we support our police in cracking down on violence in local hot spot areas, and make sure we are working to provide positive things for young Londoners to do in our city.

“Targeted support can make a huge difference in a young person’s life, whether it’s in a hospital, in police custody, or through a youth club.”

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