Meeting London’s Current and Future Policing Needs (Supplementary) [1]

Session date: 
December 9, 2014
Question By: 
Joanne McCartney
Organisation: 
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis

Question

My first set of questions are actually for the Commissioner, if I may, and I have some for the Mayor following that.

Thank you for the comments about the Autumn Statement and the difficulties financially that the police are going to have in the future.  A couple of weeks ago the Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime talked about drastic and dangerous police cuts which will have to happen.  You have talked, I believe, today, and I have certainly had reports from ITN, that it would be difficult to maintain the 32,000 police officers on an ongoing basis.  Could I just ask if that is that something that you recognise, that with the 32,000 you may be able to get there by the next election, but beyond that it is going to be very difficult to maintain?

Answer

Answer for Meeting London’s Current and Future Policing Needs (Supplementary) [1]

Answer for Meeting London’s Current and Future Policing Needs (Supplementary) [1]

Answered By: 
Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis

We have to accept it is going to be very, very difficult because we have found £600 million of savings and got to that 32,000 and that has probably made an awful lot of the ‘easier’ savings, none of them being easy but easier savings, so we have done that work - over £5 million.  The next group, which will be another at least, I suspect, £5 million will require far more effort but we have probably got some good ideas about how we might save one-third of it and that still leaves two-thirds to be found.  As you know, 80%-odd of our costs are people.  By far the most expensive of our people are police officers.  If you break down our workforce, two-thirds are police and they account for three-quarters of the salaries.  Those numbers drive you to realise that we will struggle to maintain those numbers.  I will put it stronger than that, because until we get to the point of knowing exactly what we will lose, no matter which government, then it is hard to be precise.

 

We are driving down our police support staff costs.  That also means losing some police staff.  We have gone down from about 14,500, we got down to about 11,500.  That as a ratio of police to police staff support has changed.  We have managed to make that change.  There is a point at which, and we have always worried about this together,  if we reduce our police staff numbers to the point where we have to replace them with police officers, then that makes no sense, and I have always said I would not do that.  I have the support from the Mayor and Deputy Mayors to say that we would not do that.  I do not know when that day arrives, but when you have taken 3,000 away it has to get closer.  For all those reasons it is obvious that we are going to come under real pressure.

 

We have asked for support around counterterrorism and we are waiting to see what will happen there, because we have not had a promise yet on that.  Even if we see overall pressure we have to see some investment there.  I cannot put it any better than it will be difficult to maintain 32,000.

 

Joanne McCartney AM:  I think we have had this discussion with you when you were first appointed, and I know the Mayor said this as well, that 32,000 is about the right number to actually police London effectively.  Is that still your view, and particularly with the Mayor’s comment about the city expanding even further.  Is 32,000 the number you would want to keep?

 

Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe QPM (Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis):  I would love to keep them and double them really.  There is no perfect science as to how many we should have.  If you know the MPS had 25,000 15 years ago, now at 32,000, there is no precision about it, that it should be 31,000, 33,000.  We could argue all day.  To be fair though, if you look at territorial policing (TP) there has been a really good piece of work done in the MPS, which I did not lead.  It was led by Simon Byrne [Assistant Commissioner for TP] and his team, which showed that the number of officers we have in TP is broadly what we needed at the time to police on TP, from responding to incidents and investigating crime at the volume end.  It is harder on the murder side and kidnapping.

 

That is broadly about right, but the things we know that are coming down the line with this next Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) is obviously London is growing, which is a fantastic thing, more people.  With more people, on the whole, there becomes more crime, more challenges.  You are seeing differential birth rates, you are seeing the East of London expanding at different rates.  There is no doubt that this city is going to produce its own challenges and we would always want to have more officers. I am afraid I cannot be precise about what the exact number is that we always require, but 32,000 is not a bad one to have.

 

Joanne McCartney AM:  The Deputy Mayor for Police and Crime has previously stated to a House of Commons Select Committee that if it went below 31,000 it would be a doomsday scenario.  I do not know if he still holds to that.

 

I want to move on.  You talked earlier, Commissioner, about the gaps which will develop in the next few years.  The last time you had your Deputy Commissioner in front of the Police and Crime Committee he talked about the fact that even now you are having to make trade-offs.  If I could quote him he gave the example, he said, for example:

 

“In rape we are seeing large increases.  Where do we want to do the trade-offs?  This is where we are getting to.”

 

Therefore if you put money into one part of policing you have to take it away from the other.  Do you recognise your Deputy Commissioner’s view that you are getting to trade-offs?  If things do not improve, where do you see the trade-offs being made?

 

Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe QPM (Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis):  I am not sure exactly the question that Craig [Craig Mackey QPM, Deputy Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis] was answering, but I can anticipate some of the areas he was thinking about.  For example, the fact that we have less murders of course is a great thing, but when we looked at it we have not changed the number of murder teams, whereas on the other side we have seen a big rise in the number of sexual offence reports.  Some of those are historical.  We knew that we needed to help the sexual offences investigations so we put, I think it was, two to four of the murder teams over to sexual offences.

 

Joanne McCartney AM:  My question really is, is there anything you are thinking that you might stop doing in the future?

 

Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe QPM (Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis):  No.  I am going to answer that question directly.  We just put 500 officers into cybercrime.  We have had to move them from elsewhere.  You could say that means that you are having to make hard decisions.  We are, but that is what criminals are doing, so we have to follow to some extent obviously what the nature of the threat is.  I do not anticipate stopping doing much.  I have been in the job now for 30-odd years and we have been talking about stopping a lot, but do not ever stop these things, we still carry on doing them.  What you can see is you sometimes have to prioritise by time and it may be that we have to limit the amount of resources we put into some things.  I think it is very hard for a police service to say, “We are going to stop investigating things.  We are going to stop attending things” but I think you have to do that and then prioritise.  It is not going to be anything left that we just say we do not do.  I do not see that is a need.  Even with the levels of cuts we are talking about we are going to have to probably just delay some things, but to some extent that happens now.