Police Numbers

MQT on 2012-09-19
Session date: 
September 19, 2012
Question By: 
Joanne McCartney
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


How confident are you of maintaining police numbers at the 32,320 mark, given the swingeing budget cuts that the government plans for London policing over the next 3 years?


Answer for Police Numbers

Answer for Police Numbers

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I do think that it is important to keep Police numbers high, Joanne. It is something that not everybody necessarily agrees with me about. A lot of people say that the numbers themselves do not matter. I think that they do matter. I think that it is important that we keep them at or around 32,000. It is what I have said. It is also very important that we get those officers insofar as we can out there where the public can see them, and that is what is going on.

Joanne McCartney (AM): Yes, Mr Mayor, we do agree with you that it is important to keep Police numbers high, not least to provide the resilience that London needs. Your election manifesto talked about keeping Police numbers over the 32,000 mark. Can you tell me today how many Police officers do we have in the Metropolitan Police Service?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Yes, it is I think 31,400 and something, from memory.

Joanne McCartney (AM): Yes, so we are already really 500 or 600 down from where you would like to be and where your election manifesto promised.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): We are, and I have raised it and the explanation for this was that there was a recruitment freeze during the Games.

Joanne McCartney (AM): We have had some recent information coming out of the Home Affairs Select Committee in the last two weeks. The Metropolitan Police Service Commissioner, Bernard Hogan-Howe on 11 September told that Committee that he could not guarantee that Police numbers would not fall below 31,000. Do you share his analysis?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): It is very important to continue to make the case to Government for funding for Police and clearly we are, as you rightly say, under serious financial pressure at the moment. I am committed to keeping numbers as high as I possibly can at or around 32,000 and that is what I propose to do.

I think people who are watching this should realise that the acid test of the success of a Police force is in what has happened to crime, and crime over the last period has been down very substantially and I am pleased with that and I think it is a great credit to the work of everybody in the Metropolitan Police Service.

Joanne McCartney (AM): Mr Mayor, I am not going to respond to that, but some crime is going up as well, some types of crime, but on the numbers, you still have not answered me. The Commissioner says that he cannot guarantee that numbers will not fall below 31,000. Why have you as yet not persuaded him that they will retain at the 32,000 mark?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I do not know exactly what he said, but by the end of the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) period in 2015 we will have to make the case for London again and an argument will be had.

Joanne McCartney (AM): The week before, on 4 September, your Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime [Stephen Greenhalgh] said that he was finding it difficult, his exact words, to deliver your manifesto commitment and he stated that if numbers went down to 31,000, as the Metropolitan Police Service's Commissioner is saying he cannot guarantee, it will be a doomsday scenario. Do you agree with your Deputy's analysis?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I think I have been pretty clear that I want to keep these numbers high, Joanne, and that is the name of the game.

Joanne McCartney (AM): Would you agree that 31,000 officers is a 'doomsday scenario', as your Deputy has stated?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I think what Stephen Greenhalgh would say is that what matters is the success of the Police force in combating crime.

Joanne McCartney (AM): This is what he said to the Select Committee, Mr Mayor. He said it was a doomsday scenario.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): At the moment they are having great success.

Joanne McCartney (AM): Do you agree with his analysis that to reduce to 31,000 would be a doomsday scenario for the Metropolitan Police Service?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I do not know exactly what he said about it.

Joanne McCartney (AM): I am quoting what he said.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): He speaks with brilliantly colourful language. I think that the Metropolitan Police Service is doing a brilliant job at 31,453 or whatever they have at the moment. Whether it is a doomsday scenario, if you lose another 453, I am not certain. What I do know is that I want to keep numbers high. That is the name of the game. There are currently 4,700 officers doing back office functions. We can get them out, and we are doing a lot of work, to get them out into the frontline.

Joanne McCartney (AM): I appreciate that you are trying to get officers out to the frontline, however, the Metropolitan Police Service Commissioner, last week also stated that because he is having to axe so many staff, civilians, which includes civilian staff and Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs), that the danger is that warranted officers are having to step back into those roles. I think all of us as Assembly Members are hearing those stories from our boroughs as well, so it is going to be doubly difficult for you, isn't it, Mr Mayor, and would you agree with me that this Government is cutting Police funding too fast and too far?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Members of the Assembly will recall that we were able to get some extra funding for London policing. I think it is important that we continue to make the case for London for making the city safe. What the Metropolitan Police Service is doing at the moment is to continue to drive down crime. There are plenty of people including Charles Clarke the other day, the former Labour Home Secretary, who said you should not fetishize numbers; you should not worry about the exact number of the police. You should look at the results that they deliver.

Joanne McCartney (AM): Thank you.

Darren Johnson (Chair): Assembly Member O'Connell.