Assembly tells Mayor not to pour money down the drain on water cannon

14 February 2014

The London Assembly has urged Mayor Boris Johnson not to pour hundreds of thousands of pounds into the purchase of water cannon for the Metropolitan Police.

A motion agreed [1] today says the Assembly do not believe an adequate case has been made for the purchase of water cannon in London.

Caroline Pidgeon AM, who proposed the motion, said:

“The purchase of water cannon and their potential deployment on London’s streets moves us significantly away from Robert Peel’s principles of policing by consent.

“With the Met’s budget under pressure we would rather see the cash spent on additional frontline police officers than poured down the drain into something that the Mayor claims would be rarely seen or used.”

Joanne McCartney AM, who seconded the motion, said:

“The Mayor has not made a clear case for the use of water cannon on London’s streets, and the Met Police say they have no specific intelligence that they need them before the summer. The effectiveness of water cannon in fast moving situations like the August Riots of 2011 is also limited, even the Mayor himself has said they wouldn’t have been used. “The Mayor should not be rushing through this decision which fundamentally alters the relationship between the police and the communities they serve. The lessons from the riots were clear; we needed more officers deployed more quickly. Water cannon are no replacement for a properly resourced police service, since 2010 we have lost over 3,000 police officers in London.”

The full text of the motion is:

“This Assembly notes the current public engagement by the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime with regards to police use of water cannon.[1]

This Assembly further notes that the cost of three ‘interim’ water cannon is up to £200,000; [2] and that the Mayor has said that he is “happy to make the necessary funds available to the MPS” and “would expect to do this in February, following the engagement”. [3] The cost of new water cannon has been estimated at around £600,000 to £1 million each, and it is suggested that forces will “contribute proportionately” to the procurement of these. [4]

We do not believe that an adequate case has been made to support the introduction of water cannon.

The Assembly therefore calls on the Mayor not to incur any expenditure on water cannon in 2014/15.”

Notes to editors

  1. The motion was agreed 20 votes for to 5 against at a meeting of the full Assembly today. Watch the webcast.
  2. Water cannon public engagement
  3. Letter from Stephen Greenhalgh to Joanne McCartney, 16 January 2014
  4. Letter from AC Rowley to Stephen Greenhalgh, 17 September 2013:
  5. “It should be noted that this [the purchase of three water cannon] is intended to be an interim solution as the water cannon are 23 years old and, though in good mechanical condition, it can only be anticipated that they will have a working life of two to three years.”
  6. Letter from Boris Johnson to Theresa May, 6 January 2014
  7. ACPO, Water Cannon Briefing Document, 8 January 2014
  8. As well as investigating issues that matter to Londoners, the London Assembly acts as a check and a balance on the Mayor.