Meeting London’s Current and Future Policing Needs (Supplementary) [6]

Session date: 
December 9, 2014
Question By: 
Richard Tracey
GLA Conservatives
Asked Of: 
Boris Johnson (Mayor of London) & Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe (Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis)


Commissioner, on the question of the costs of policing London, I think MOPAC has said, and I think probably the Inspector of Constabulary has pointed out also that the cost per head of policing London is probably about twice as much as the average for the rest of the country, and that is even taking out the cost of the national responsibilities which you have.  I believe that there has been a drive on between yourself and MOPAC to try to bring down that comparison to get nearer to the national average.  How are you getting on with that?


Answer for Meeting London’s Current and Future Policing Needs (Supplementary) [6]

Answer for Meeting London’s Current and Future Policing Needs (Supplementary) [6]

Answered By: 
Boris Johnson (Mayor of London) & Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe (Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis)

It is certainly quite near.  I do not have the exact figures.  One thing that has slightly concerned me, or actually concerned me a lot, when we saw the last set of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) figures their comparisons did not properly, I do not think, account for the difference in spending in London - for example, salaries.  We have a difference in salary of about £6,000, thank goodness, to the rest of the country but they did not obviously show that.  It did not account for the fact that when 10,000 people turned up outside the Israeli Embassy we still have to have 1,000 people to respond.  One, from the demand side and, two, from the cost side things like the value of the estate.  The very thing that we are getting a benefit from, we also get costs from.  When it comes to building new buildings or maintaining them and all the rest of it.


Yes, I have always believed that benchmarking and comparing with other costs is good, and when I was in the HMIC I did exactly the same.  I do not think it is true to say that it is double the cost, and it has certainly got better.  We will never, I doubt, get to parity.  I would love it but I think it is always going to be unlikely, so we have to settle on a figure that we think is reasonable.  We may be travelling towards that but there will be a consequence.


Richard Tracey AM:  The figures that we have, £366 per head, is the London figure.  The national average is £192.  There is quite a bit of difference there.  I accept what you said about, for example policing some problems outside an embassy, that is presumably to a large extent part of your national responsibility, is it not?


Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe QPM (Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis):  It is but it is all contained entirely within London.  When 1,000 people turn up outside the Israeli Embassy, as it was, and it is not the only one we have had over the last few weeks, the officers who police it will not come from a special pool marked ‘diplomatic protection’ they will come from Croydon, Lewisham and Hackney, right across the force area.  We have to have enough resilience in the 32 boroughs to cope with those, not unusual but, exceptional days when we have to provide those extra numbers in large amounts.  We are the only force in the country that has a Kidnap Unit, for good reason.  We are the only force who has such a large dangerous dogs unit.  That is a more minor example, but important for the reason we may go into talking later.  There are many things that we do here that are exceptional and we are never going to be Norfolk and we are never going to be the City of London, come to that.  I think it is important --


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Our air will be as clean as Norfolk.


Jenny Jones AM:  Not with you as Mayor.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  It already was.  Indeed the other day they had an air -- anyway.


Roger Evans AM (Chairman):  OK.  This is deviation.  Commissioner, please continue.


Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe QPM (Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis):  I do not think I have an awful lot to add.  It is entirely proper to aspire to reasonable comparisons.  We are showing that we are getting nearer but there are always going to be some differences.  Some of that is the cost base and some of that is the demand base.  The final thing is some of the extra responsibilities we take on for the country that land here and no one else wants to do.


Boris Johnson (Mayor of London):  Just to give you one example, Dick, the cost of Julian Assange [Editor-in-Chief of the website WikiLeaks] so far in policing the Ecuadorian Embassy, between June 2012 and the end of October 2014 was £7.3 million.  That is one example of the kind of costs the MPS faces.


Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe QPM (Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis):  The funeral of the Baroness Thatcher [former Prime Minister], which we were pleased to police very well, but I think was something in the order of about £3 million in cost, for which there was no reimbursement.  Of course it went off well but everybody forgets there was a significant threat to the protest that we expected that could have led to a national event and become a national disgrace.


Richard Tracey AM:  You do have my respect.  I have listened with horror to some of the doom mongers who were going on two or three years ago about what the state of policing would be in London.  It is interesting that in the last few days, one of your colleagues, a chief constable I think in the north who was saying that in two or three years his force was going to go bust.  Equally, a police commissioner in Surrey a few weeks ago was saying more or less the same thing.  He had sold a whole lot of police stations and still he believed he would not be able to balance the budget without charging an extra supplement on the Council Tax.  Are you in any way fearful in the same way as them, or are you more confident?


Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe QPM (Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis):  Probably if I said two or three things further really.  First of all, I am not a person who will react to somebody saying, “Save money and be more efficient by waving shrouds”.  I spent three years, when we had to find £600 million to get the police numbers right, so if I say I am getting concerned it is because I am getting concerned.  That is how I would phrase it at the moment.  Another £800 million professionally I know is going to be a challenge and I have tried to put it in that way.  I am not quite sure how we do that and keep police numbers.  We will go away and look hard.  We have already got some ideas but there are going to be some harsh realities.  Do we continue with 32 command units based on 32 boroughs?  Do 32 boroughs continue?  Do we continue with the number of ranks we have?  All these things are being considered now for the future, I would assure you.


Secondly, it was Lincolnshire, and if you look at what is happening, and the reason that they are having a particular challenge is because they were already very tight and they had already gone and outsourced things that are, frankly, things I would not have outsourced.  They have outsourced their call handling, they have outsourced their custody handling.  There is not an awful lot left to drive, by commercial pressure, their cost base down.  I think it is in that sense that their Chief Constable is starting to get very concerned.  He would say that the grant formula does not recognise the realities of policing Lincolnshire, which is very rural, very sparse and they have got not very many officers spread thinly.  That is their broad problem.  I respect their problem.


Coming back to my final comment, I am concerned about what the future holds if we only count our operations by numbers.  If we only worship police numbers, and we have already seen examples here, where people only want to talk about police numbers, it happens every political cycle, then you can expect that this will be a challenge over the next four to five years, no matter which party is in power.  As you know, depending on which side of the fence you are on, depends on which way that will be played.  All I can say, if that is all we worship, then we have a problem coming along and, I am not somebody to wave shrouds, I just think that we have challenges.


Richard Tracey AM:  OK, thank you.