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Sadiq Khan demands urgent action to address police numbers

The mayor says the safety of Londoners is at risk with current levels of policing.

The number of police officers in the capital is at risk of falling below 30,000, the lowest since 2003, mayor of London Sadiq Khan has warned.

Mr Khan said urgent action is needed to address the problem, which could limit the capacity of Metropolitan Police officers to respond to large-scale incidents and pile more pressure on the already overstretched teams who work to tackle serious, organised crime and terrorism.

In a letter to Home Secretary Amber Rudd, he called on the Government to scrap its “unwelcome” funding formula review and to increase police funding following years of underfunding and real-terms cuts, to “ensure crisis is averted and the capital can be kept safe”.

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Police marksmen at the scene of the London Bridge attack (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Mr Khan said the “alarming scale of the police funding crisis will make a significant and sustained reduction in officer numbers inevitable” and officer numbers in London could fall below 30,000 by 2019 as more savings are made.

More than £600 million of savings have already been made since 2010, with 2,800 PCSOs and police staff posts lost.

A further £400 million of savings are needed by 2021 because the flat budget settlement provided by the Government fails to take any account of the increasing demand or inflationary pressure on policing, the mayor said.

All opportunities for generating more income or making savings are already being taken – yet “crime is increasing, in volume, complexity and harm”, he warned.

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Metropolitan Police headquarters at New Scotland Yard, Embankment (Kirsty O'Connor/PA)

Mr Khan said budgeting timetables for police forces mean that decisions, such as recruitment plans, must be made months in advance of the next financial year if they are to take effect in time to fit within the limits of the annual budget, which means the current number of officers cannot be maintained without certainty of next year’s and future funding. This means the only option is to turn off recruitment completely.

He said: “At a time of rising crime and unprecedented threat, we are facing a funding crisis in our police service that only the Government can help to avert. The alarming scale of the pressure means Londoners’ safety is at risk. We are at a cliff-edge.

“If ministers do not act now to confirm they will scrap the funding formula review and increase funding through the annual settlement and by properly reimbursing the Met for the work undertaken because of our capital city status, the safety of our city hangs in the balance and we will have no choice but to stop recruiting and prepare to reduce our frontline.

“Home Office cuts have already lost us 2,800 PCSOs and staff, most of our police station front counters, and 120 police buildings as we have sought to protect the frontline. I have increased the council tax precept, and provided additional funding wherever I can. But it is not enough.

“If the Government doesn’t act now we risk our police officer numbers falling below 30,000 for the first time since 2003, at a time when we need them most.

“For every day the Government delays, we come a day closer to facing inevitable and extremely difficult decisions that will affect the safety of Londoners not just today, but potentially far into the future.”

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