Metropolitan Police Budget

MQT on 2012-12-19
Session date: 
December 19, 2012
Question By: 
Joanne McCartney
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
The Mayor



Answer for Metropolitan Police Budget

Answer for Metropolitan Police Budget

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Yes, thank you very much, Joanne. I want to pay tribute to the work that has been done by Bernard Hogan-Howe [Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis] and again to Stephen [Greenhalgh, Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime]. I think they are working very, very well to deal with tough times across the public sector. For the first time in recent history the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) has a balanced budget and will have for the next three years. Our priority has got to be to keep numbers high, as I have said, at or around 32,000, make sure the public have access to the police as much as possible and so in our building strategy if anything to improve access for members of the public, and to keep crime coming down. I am confident that they are embarked on the right programme.

Joanne McCartney (AM): That is very nice to hear, Mr Mayor, but it is not the question I asked. I asked you: will you be joining other Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) across the country in their calls to the Home Secretary to rethink the Government's dangerous strategy of imposing a 20% budget cut on police forces?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): As I have said, we have already gone into bat for London repeatedly. We have secured extra funding for London for the last year and for this year. I will continue to do that as and when I think necessary. But clearly, with a big budget such as we have, we also have got to be responsible, as I am sure you as a former member of the Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA) would understand, and we have got to bear down on costs where we can.

Joanne McCartney (AM): No one is doubting that you have to bear down on costs. But I am asking: will you be joining other PCCs across the country in their efforts to lobby the Home Secretary to row back on the 20% cuts to policing? Will you be doing that or not?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): What I will be doing is making the case for London, which I always do.

Joanne McCartney (AM): I take that as a no, then, and can I say --

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): No, you cannot take that as a no. I do not see any particular reason to join other PCCs. I will be making the case for London and I will be arguing for adequate funding to achieve the objectives that we have.

Joanne McCartney (AM): Mr Mayor, you are arguably the most powerful PCC in the country, responsible for a quarter of the country's policing. Do you not think that you at the head of a PCC alliance would actually add extra weight in support of policing in this country?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Well, if you want me to become the Leader of the Opposition instead of [Ed] Milliband, I can see why you might want that. It seems to be a perfectly reasonable thing for a Labour member to want at this stage. That is not my function. I am the Mayor of London.

Joanne McCartney (AM): Your function is to stand up for policing.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): It is.

Joanne McCartney (AM): After the riots, you stated that in the end there is going to have to be an argument about money with the Home Secretary. Have you actually had that argument? From what I am hearing, your sense of responsibility does not seem to go that far.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Well, I do not know what you are hearing or indeed which voices you hear. My position remains that it is my job, and I have good support in this from all those who work on policing in, London to lobby the Home Secretary and to lobby the Home Office for the funding that we need. We do need considerable funding. You are right to say that. However, we have also got to be efficient and to make savings where we can. It would be irresponsible of me not to tell you that.

Joanne McCartney (AM): Mr Mayor, you also in your initial answer stated that we have to have good access to police services. I have asked you before about police front counters and you have made certain promises. However the proposals coming out of the Metropolitan Police Service do seem to me at the moment to be falling far short of your promises.

Let me give you some examples and this is why I think it is dangerous. I am glad that you have said that Tottenham will retain its police station but we are still arguing for 24 hours. In Enfield, for example, Southgate Police Station currently gives 60 hours per week. The suggestion is it now gets four hours at a local ASDA. Is that, do you think, equivalent? Newham is going to lose 296 front counter hours a week and in Kensington and Chelsea they are losing at least 148 hours a week. Is that the equivalent?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I will be very happy to give an answer about counters but I am conscious that there is a question later on in the order paper, Chair.

Joanne McCartney (AM): I am happy to have it dealt with now under this.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I am looking at the Chair now for guidance because I am more than happy to get into this discussion now and knock that question on the head if that is your wish. I do not know whether, Chair, it is your wish.

Jennette Arnold (Chair): OK. You can pull it up. But have you finished, then, the matter of your original question?

Joanne McCartney (AM): No, but I think it is part of this question, too, and I think it fits in with this because it is about the cuts in the budget. The Mayor in fact raised it in his answer to me himself.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): We will roll these together.

Jennette Arnold (Chair): If you take the answer now, Assembly Member McCartney, then, whether you are satisfied with it or not, you are not going --

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Let me try to give you an answer, Joanne, about counters and what we are doing. Nothing is agreed. There are no, as I am sure you are aware, plans that are set in stone to do anything yet.

The principles that I have made clear to the MPS are that whatever changes we make, Londoners should have access that is at least as good if not better than the access they had before. As I said in my election manifesto - an historic document - if there is a closure, then that facility has got to be replaced one way or another in the vicinity. Just to give you the figures about police buildings in London and police establishments, we have 497 buildings in London that are occupied by the police in one way or another. Of those, 136, Joanne, allow any kind of access by the public to the police. The total cost of those buildings is about £203 million a year.

What we are proposing to do is to increase access overall. Where we do close buildings or do make changes to the building establishment, the plan is whatever happens to increase the access by the public to police officers to about 200 places rather than 136. That I think is the way forward. It will obviously involve saving some money. However, I think most members of the public asking themselves whether they want police effectively in buildings where they are inaccessible to them or they want them out on the street, whether they want bobbies or buildings, I think most people would choose bobbies rather than buildings. That is going to be our approach.

Joanne McCartney (AM): Mr Mayor, some of the instances I have given you are where police stations have had to close and the equivalent is not what you have promised and we want what you have promised, so I am going to ask you to look at that.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Good. Well, I want what you want.

Joanne McCartney (AM): The other issue I want to raise quickly is that your Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime has said he is going to go around all 32 boroughs - which is welcome - to consult on the estate programme and the plan. But he is going to --

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): He is. And what will happen? Steve [O'Connell] ----

Joanne McCartney (AM): Sorry, can I finish my question?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Of course.

Joanne McCartney (AM): He is actually only going to be spending one hour per borough to do this consultation. Does that equate in your mind to meaningful consultation: one hour on the Police and Crime Plan, a straight strategy of the new local policing model per borough? Does one hour seem sufficient to you?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Well, I think it is a good thing that he is going out to every one of the boroughs. By the way, just to get to --

Joanne McCartney (AM): Is one hour sufficient?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): In every borough under any circumstances, there will be whatever happens, in every one of the 32 boroughs, a 24-hour police station. There will be a 24-hour police station. I have made that absolutely clear in every borough.

Joanne McCartney (AM): Mr Mayor, is one hour sufficient?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I think it is quite right that Stephen Greenhalgh and his team should be going out on a roadshow. Of course, I know exactly what will happen. Everywhere they go, they will come under a fusillade of politically motivated brickbats from those who say that whatever they are doing is completely wrong and unthinkable. I am afraid that is his job --

Joanne McCartney (AM): Is that why it is limited to one hour, then?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): -- and he will do a first class job of explaining to people how we intend to make savings and yet to increase access. That is the approach.

Joanne McCartney (AM): Mr Mayor, I must say one hour does not seem as if he is going to listen much. Thank you.