Mayor puts predecessor’s ‘redundant’ water cannon up for sale

14 December 2016

Sadiq Khan has revealed the full cost to Londoners of maintaining three unused water cannon bought by his predecessor as he announced the redundant machines are now for sale with the proceeds going towards helping to tackle gang crime.

Following the previous Mayor’s decision to purchase the water cannon in 2014, more than £322,834 has been spent by the Met Police on purchasing, fitting out and repairing the three machines – despite the fact that they cannot legally be used in the UK and have languished in storage for two years. The detailed costs include:

·         Low Emission Zone compliance - £32,004

·         Re-painting - £19,035

·         Fitting CCTV - £19,376.70

·         Body work repairs due to corrosion   - £4,911.15

·         Supply and fit of 999 sirens - £3,109.20

·         Signage - £3,511.50

·         Installation of a Radio / CD player - £970.50

The water cannon were bought second-hand by Boris Johnson from the German Federal Police in June 2014 – but before he had approval for their use in London.

In July 2015, the then Home Secretary Theresa May refused permission for their use on the capital’s streets, telling MPs that evaluation and testing had shown the cannon could cause serious injuries, including spinal fractures, and raised doubts over their usefulness in fast-moving riots.

The cannon have since been kept in storage by the Metropolitan Police. The machines have a lifespan of 10 years, and figures released today by Sadiq Khan revealed that around £21,000 per year has been spent maintaining them. By selling the cannon – a key manifesto pledge - Sadiq will save almost £175,000 over the next eight years* which can instead be spent on vital frontline services to help tackle the causes of crime.

The Mayor today confirmed that the water cannon are now for sale via the Ministry of Defence (MOD). The MOD is helping to find the highest and most reputable bid from a European policing or civil protection organisation – according to conditions set by the German Federal Police.

The Mayor will only permit a sale to a buyer who meets the most rigorous ethical standards, to ensure the water cannon are not in any way misused in the future. 

While the process will incur some fees, remaining funds from the sale, alongside saved maintenance costs, will be channelled back into communities and youth projects to tackle crime.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “It beggars belief that such a huge amount of taxpayers’ money has been wasted on paying to store these redundant machines. We’ve been left in this position by the previous Mayor who rashly purchased them before he even had permission to use them, and now it’s my job to claw back as much of London taxpayers’ money as I can. I have spent a significant amount of time looking into how I can do this, and have been left with no choice but sell these machines through a process that charges a fee.

“By working with communities and returning to real neighbourhood policing, we can do far more for the safety of our city rather than relying on obsolete and illegal water cannon. They do not belong on the streets of London, and by selling them we’re able to put money back into helping young people affected by gang crime and keeping Londoners safe”.


Notes to editors

* Purchased two years ago and with a lifespan of around 10 years, the cannon have eight years left.

  1.         The detailed combined costs of all three vehicles, between April 2014-April 2016, are:

Purchase of vehicles and initial fit-out

Cost of vehicles - £85,022.01

Transport to UK - £20,223

Transport within UK - £3,800.01

Supply and fit of warning equipment - £8,584.50

Supply and fit of 999 sirens - £3,109.20

Supply and fit of CCTV systems - £19,376.70

Supply and fit of external/internal intercom system - £4284.30

Supply and fit of PA system - £4288.80

Repainting - £19,035

Supply and fit ‘Battenberg’ police vehicle markings - £4,538.70

Supply and fit Motorola MTM800 radios - £2,708.10

Signage - £3,511.50

Body work repairs due to corrosion - £4,911.15

Mass storage devices - £434.10

Tachograph inspections - £194.10

Radio/CD players - £970.50

Water jet camera housings - £4095.60

Front camera brackets - £2059.20

Tool kits - £986.40

Conversion to UK specification and service parts - £30,625.96

MOT tests - £1,688.04

UK Registration - £499.98


Sub-total - £224,946.85

Additional modifications carried out following Home Office requirements and recommendations

Internal camera system - £2,477.40

Modification of water jet brackets - £1,909.20

Maintenance, service and inspection

Low Emission Zone compliance - £32,004

Assistance with trials - £12,578

2014/15 - £20,880

2015/16 - £21,866.04

Wear and tear - £6,173.22

Total – £322,834.71           

Total estimated maintenance cost for an additional 8 years of working life (based on 2015/16 maintenance costs) – an additional £174,928.32

1.   An agreement has been signed with the Ministry of Defence to facilitate the sale of the water cannon to an EU based policing or civil protection organisation. Please see the decision paper here:

2. The Mayor’s Office for Policing And Crime (MOPAC) is bound by a clause in the original purchase contract agreed by the last Mayor, which requires the Met to seek to consent of the German Federal Police to sell on to third parties and can only sell to a buyer whom they consent to. The German Federal Police have stated that resale must be private (the cannon cannot be publicly advertised for sale), and is only permissible to a police or civil protecting organisation of an EU member state.

  1.       Fees are charged for a Service Level Agreement with the Ministry of Defence, with 5 per cent of the sale going to the Ministry of Defence and between 30 and 35 per cent going to the contractor.
  2.       Theresa May’s statement on water cannon can be found here:
  3.       The Mayor’s draft Police and Crime Plan, which the public is now consulting on, puts real neighbourhood policing and the capital’s most vulnerable communities at the heart of his policing strategy. Already, he is introducing a second dedicated Police Constable in every London ward by the end of 2017.
  4.       MOPAC already runs several programmes tackling serious youth violence and gang crime. These include:

Safer London Foundation – Empower - Programme supporting young women at risk of and experiencing gang related sexual violence and exploitation. This has been expanded for one year throughout additional London boroughs.

Gang Exit - A Pan-London Gang Exit service, through which any young Londoner identified as either a gang member or vulnerable to being exploited or recruited by gangs can be referred to receive intensive specialist support from trained mentors.

Specialist support within the four Major Trauma Centres in London for victims of gang-related violence.

Project Oracle - The Pilot of a youth crime outcomes framework in three London boroughs using London Crime Prevention Fund youth crime projects to produce robust evidence and improved outcomes.

Kicks - Kicks is jointly funded by MOPAC and the Premier League, and offers targeted provision of positive activity (football) in order to engage young people at the risk of being in a gang in a range of constructive activities.


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