Shaun Bailey today insisted he could increase the strength of the Metropolitan police to a record 40,000 officers as he vowed to cut crime within 100 days of taking office.
The Tory mayoral candidate said he would increase the Met’s strength by 25 per cent – an extra 8,000 constables – while redeploying 1,000 officers to focus on violence against women and girls.
“That recruitment process will start on the day I arrive,” he said as he launched his City Hall manifesto this morning.
But the small print of the 56-page document revealed he would be asking the Home Office to cover the bulk of the £521m annual cost – prompting Labour rival Sadiq Khan to accuse him of “complete fantasy figures”.
Mr Bailey’s manifesto set out a series of proposals that are likely to prove divisive among Londoners. These include:
· Suspending low-traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) where a majority votes against.
· Reinstating the congestion charge exemption for minicabs.
· Scrapping the expansion of the ultra-low emission zone to the suburbs.
· Returning the £15 congestion charge to its pre-pandemic £11.50 level.
· Spending £37.2m to fund 30 minutes of free parking for three years in outer London high streets.
· Opposing any expansion of Heathrow airport.
· Slashing the size of the employer contribution to TfL staff pensions.
· Scrapping Mr Khan’s statues and street names diversity commission.
· Wider use of stop and search.
· Reopening the front counters of up to 38 police stations closed under Mr Khan.
Mr Bailey said “rising crime” was the “number one challenge for London”. The most recent data from the Office for National Statistics shows that, across a series of key measures, crime has risen markedly since Mr Khan took office in May 2016.
The total number of crimes recorded annually by the Met increased from 752,698, in the year to September 2016, to 821,236 in the year to September 2020.
Over the same period, violence against the person increased from 190,665 to 221,098, homicides increased from 106 to 127, sexual offences from 16,903 to 18,959, robberies from 21,939 to 31,556, residential burglaries from 44,010 to 49,973 and possession of offensive weapons from 5,435 to 6,598.
But many types of crime did fall in the most recent 12 months to last September, when compared with the previous year, with total recorded crime down by 82,230 incidents. Many of the decreases will have been due in some part to the impact of the pandemic.
The Government first proposed in September 2019 to increase the number of police in England by 20,000, of which the Met hoped for 6,000.
It costs more than £65,000 a year for a police constable. Mr Bailey told the Standard: “The Home Office has pledged to give us at least 5,000 [officers]. We are in a conversation to get at least 6,000, and we will top up to 8,000, so the money is there.
“I will simply make the savings in City Hall and redirect that money to Londoners’ safety. The money is there. I will make a choice to make sure that Londoners are safe.
“Right just now, if you speak to Londoners from any part of London, they will tell you they feel unsafe – particularly young people. We have to get on top of it, and a big part of that is police officers on the streets of London.”
A spokeswoman for Mr Khan said: “These are complete fantasy figures from the Tory candidate that prove once again that he is not a serious candidate for Mayor of London.”
Yesterday Mr Bailey said in The Sunday Times Magazine that bereaved mothers had told him stop and search was vital to reduce knife killings. He revealed: “I’ve been stopped by police hundreds of times, and it’s sensitive but it’s effective.”
Mr Bailey, a former youth and crime advisor to David Cameron, believes he can use an apparent £450m of unclaimed Oyster card balances to open 32 youth centres and fund 4,000 youth workers.
He has pledged to install CCTV cameras on all 19,000 bus stops and on the Central, Piccadilly and Bakerloo lines to tackle sexual assaults – despite being told the Bakerloo is so old that it does not have sufficient power to run CCTV cameras.
Mr Khan’s spokesman said today that most bus stops had no power supply. He said that CCTV would start to be fitted to the Central line trains later this year, and would be included on the new fleet of Piccadilly lines due by 2025.
Mr Bailey has previously attracted criticism for his stance on cycling by questioning the east-west cycle superhighway along the Embankment.
But his manifesto proposes electric Boris bikes for the suburbs, cycle lessons for children and makes mention of more cycleways.
He would also reverse Mr Khan’s most recent 9.5 per cent hike in his share of council tax bills over the three-year mayoral term.
He said the community infrastructure levy – which will be levied on larger businesses until 2038 to help fund the construction of Crossrail – would also be used to pay for the 8,000 extra police and to reopen police stations to the public.