The future of the Metropolitan Police Service

Meeting: 
Plenary on 2017-07-06
Session date: 
July 6, 2017
Reference: 
2017/2613
Question By: 
Steve O'Connell
Organisation: 
GLA Conservatives
Asked Of: 
The Mayor

Question

Answer

Answer for The future of the Metropolitan Police Service

Answer for The future of the Metropolitan Police Service

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Thank you, Chair.  These are unprecedented times with many challenges for the police; indeed, for all emergency services.  I have been very clear in my Police and Crime Plan about the direction I would like to see policing take over coming years, making London a safer city for all, preventing crime and standing ready to protect the city from any threats to public safety.  In Cressida Dick, we have an outstanding Commissioner leading our police service and I look forward to working with her in the months and years ahead to deliver the Plan.  This means a return of real neighbourhood policing with officers who know and are known to the communities they serve, tackling the problems of crime and antisocial behaviour that matter most to Londoners.  It means a renewed and improved focus on tackling the crimes that cause the greatest harm and protecting the most vulnerable people in society.  All of this will be delivered by a transformed organisation, making use of the latest technology from body-worn videos to mobile tablets to social media, to help provide a more effective, efficient and accessible service fit for the needs of 21st-century Londoners.

 

The Plan is also very clear about the challenges we face in delivering this vision.  Crime has been increasing in volume and complexity for a while now.  The population is growing.  We face an unprecedented, ongoing and severe threat of terrorism and extremism, all at a time when the MPS continues to face acute funding pressures.  The horrific recent events in Manchester and London have underlined how vital it is that the police have the resources they need to keep us safe.  The officers, staff and volunteers of the MPS have gone above and beyond to keep the city safe.  I cannot thank them enough for what they have done and what they continue to do on our behalf.

 

However, this is plainly an unacceptable situation, putting the police under unfair and unsustainable pressure, and placing public safety at risk.  If the Government is serious about keeping all Londoners safe - as I am - then it needs to guarantee that it will fund the MPS fully, which means real-terms increases big enough to prevent us having to make £400 million worth of savings when the MPS has already reduced costs by nearly £600 million since 2010.  I will continue to fight for the resources they need to do the job.  I am grateful for those Assembly Members who back me in my call for the Government to ensure it properly funds the MPS.

 

Steve O’Connell AM:  Thank you, Mr Mayor.  Thank you, Craig, for your opening comments.  Certainly, Mr Mayor, we would support, of course, fair and adequate funding for the police to keep Londoners safe.  As Chair of the Police and Crime Committee (P&C), I have already written earlier in the year and we will be writing again to the new Government to press for a fair funding settlement for the MPS.  That is for the record and understandable.

 

Turning to your aspirations around neighbourhood policing and the police workforce, how do you balance your commitment to real neighbourhood policing - which is in essence an extra 600 police or one extra police constable (PC) in each ward and which, again, I support in principle - with the fact that over the last year under your leadership London has lost nearly 700 police officers, 600 special constables and 170 police community support officers (PCSOs)?  How do you balance that, Mr Mayor, with the fact that you want to increase numbers in the neighbourhoods?

 

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  What we are doing is we are refocusing and reprofiling neighbourhood police officers from other jobs they were doing to being neighbourhood police officers.  The key task is to make sure we protect frontline officers at a time when we have had cuts unprecedented in the MPS’s history.  One of the reasons why we will be consulting shortly on having to close half of the police station front counters is that it means we can protect frontline officers.

 

You will be aware that the average number of officers in London in the last four years has been, roughly speaking, 31,000.  For reasons you will be aware, we do not employ 32,000 officers, although that is our strategic target, because of ebb and flow and so we are going to carry on doing that.  The strategic target of 32,000 remains but, additionally, we need to make sure we do not have cuts that mean that frontline officers are reduced.

 

The good news is that we are above two thirds of the way to having every ward in London with two named officers and one PSCO supporting them.

 

Steve O’Connell AM:  Yes, I have no doubt that these are, if you like, abstractions to the neighbourhoods, which - and, again, I welcome those numbers - will have an effect on the boroughs operationally.  They will just have to.  If they are coming from somewhere, in a zero-number plan, they would be coming from another job.

 

You mentioned your strategic target of 30,000, I heard.  I had thought Londoners believed it was about 32,000.

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  It is 32,000.  You must have missed it.  It is 32,000.

 

Steve O’Connell AM:  I heard 30,000 but there we are.  The strategic target is 32,000.  For the previous Mayor that was his target, too, and he maintained it, not without difficulty of course, as you would expect.

 

Also, clearly, from the budget aspect, you have taken £38 million out of your budget, which is the sort of sum needed to require that.  Could you again explain to me and to Londoners how that works?

 

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  I am sure you are not deliberately misleading the Assembly and those watching 

but I have not taken £38 million out of the police budget.  You will be aware as an expert that the previous Mayor had an underspend because he failed to recruit sufficient numbers.  The reality is that even if you were to throw the kitchen sink at the MPS budget, you could not get to 32,000.

 

I have had to add in almost £30 million because of the decision by the previous Mayor to reduce the police precept.  The Home Secretary wrote to me in December last year [2016] and she made the point to me that overall funding to the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) would have increased by over £20 million in 2016/17 compared to the previous financial year had the precept been maximised.  Instead, MOPAC - brackets Boris Johnson [former Mayor of London] - opted to reduce the precept by the largest amount in the country, forgoing over £30 million of income.

 

I have not been reckless like Boris Johnson in an election year.  I have increased the police precept by 1.99%, induced receipts from business rates, added the buoyancy from council tax and brought about £30 million to the MPS budget.

 

Steve O’Connell AM:  I do not think we are going anywhere really on this.  The fact of the matter is that there is a decrease in numbers.  The facts are here.  I have them in front of me.  You have this aspiration of 32,000 and you have an aspiration to put one extra in every neighbourhood, but we have lost 680 and that just does not equate.

 

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Could I just address that point?  It is important to deal with the facts, which I know is difficult in a police plenary when a Conservative is asking the question.  The facts are that in 2012 there were 32,000 officers because of the Olympics.  In the preceding years, because of a generous settlement from the Labour Government, the previous Mayor managed to achieve 32,000.  Since 2012, the average numbers were 30,213 in 2013, 30,712 in 2014, 31,920 in 2015 - a general election year - and in 2016 before I took over 31,700.  The strategic target remains but you will be aware that we are facing unprecedented cuts.

 

However, unlike the previous Mayor, I am not cutting the police precept.  I have increased it by 1.99% to make sure that we are doing what we can to give the police the resources they need.  They are incredibly stretched, Steve, and we need your support rather than party politics.

 

Steve O’Connell AM:  OK.  I will take that as a badge of honour.  That is the first time you have been rude to me, Mr Mayor.  Fantastic.

 

Anyway, let us move on to borough mergers.  You are planning to, in essence, scrap two thirds of the Borough Commanders over the next few months and merge the boroughs into commands of three.  You have a pathfinder project, which does not seem to be going down too well across London.  When will you being making the decision about the borough mergers, Mr Mayor?

 

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Craig [Mackey] may want to come in on the pathfinders in relation to lessons we have learned.  They cannot proceed unless they work.  That is the short answer, Steve.  What we are not willing to do is to proceed with the basic command units taking place if there are problems with the pathfinders.  As you hopefully are aware, there have been some issues and Craig is more on top of the issues there, but can I reassure you?  We will not proceed with the basic command units being rolled out if the ‘issues’ - in inverted commas - that have been identified are not addressed and Craig is on top of those.

 

Steve O’Connell AM:  Before Craig comes in, you have already advised boroughs - quite properly - of the commanders and the provisional boroughs that they will be in charge of.  That is out there.  This is something that is out there already, with some criticism around this horseshoe and London generally.  Craig, do you want to briefly comment on the success of the pathfinders?

 

Craig Mackey QPM (Deputy Commissioner, Metropolitan Police Service):  Yes, and it is different for different parts of the service.  In talking to London leaders, some of this is really welcome, like the work around safeguarding.  Those who are members of the P&C will be aware that we were highlighted for a range of areas around safeguarding when London was just not performing well, as in the MPS and how we joined up.  We looked quite closely at how we could improve that service.  What we cannot do is break that service down into 32.  It is just not a big enough service to be able to do that.  We can break it into some smaller units that will start to bring some consistency to that sort of service in London.

 

On the crime side of it and the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) side of it, the early work certainly in the north pathfinder looks quite good.  Where we are finding it difficult is on response, but at the moment we are finding it difficult on response across London, candidly.  We have seen about a 22% rise in 999 volumes over the last two years and so there is quite a lot of stretch in the system and I can talk about what some of that demand is if that would be helpful.

 

We are absolutely clear about making sure we learn the lessons.  That is why they are pathfinders: to make sure that these work.

 

It has to be seen in the context of that wider picture around funding.  As you will know as Chair of another Committee, I have sat before these Committees a number of times and people will list to me all of the things they do not want to do and, at the end, I am left with a £400 million hole and I say, “What do people actually want to do?”  For some of these things you simply run out of options as you work out the finance list.

 

Steve O’Connell AM:  Yes, I understand that.  The borough mergers are also predicated on savings, not just operational issues.

 

A last point, really, on that: I sense and others around this horseshoe sense that you do not have the consultation piece right with the communities.  Would you like to respond?  Probably you, Mayor, actually.  If you are going to do this thing, you need to take Londoners with you.  The feedback we have had is that the communities out there have not been properly consulted.  How would you respond to that?

 

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  About four minutes ago you made the point about the unease caused around London because we have announced who the partners are going to be but we are not rolling it out.  On the other hand, you are criticising me about the concerns council leaders have raised ‑‑

 

Steve O’Connell AM:  You told them what they were going to be--

 

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  You cannot have it both ways.  On the one hand, we are trying to be transparent, which can lead to unease.  On the other hand, there are concerns raised that Craig and the team are trying to address.

 

Look, there have been concerns raised and my Deputy Mayor [for Policing and Crime] Sophie Linden and Martin Hewitt [Assistant Commissioner for Territorial Policing, MPS] have met with a number of council leaders and have done a large number of meetings with key stakeholders.  I would argue that is more consultation than any previous Deputy Mayor or MOPAC have done before.

 

You are right to raise here - which is the appropriate place to raise it - that there are concerns.  I cannot pretend there are not concerns.  We are trying to take council leaders with us but, of course, as you will be aware, if we did not have to make the cuts we are having to make, this would not be on the table.  Craig might want to add about the review.

 

Craig Mackey QPM (Deputy Commissioner, Metropolitan Police Service):  In terms of the consultation, I hear some of that as well.  I am not sure.  You emphasised communities; I would say some key stakeholders.  With the exception of one of the pathfinders where I have heard stuff from the community, I have not heard stuff from the community in the other pathfinders.

 

Absolutely, some of this goes to the heart of the relationship particularly some of the borough leaders felt they had with their Borough Commander.  However, you will know - and I have had this conversation with a number of you - they like it when they like the Borough Commander and the relationship is good, but they are also pretty quick to ring me to say, “We do not like the Borough Commander.  When are you going to do a shuffle and move them on?”

 

Part of this is about trying to get 12 people who are going to lead some very big parts of London against a backdrop of all the demands and pressures going up and the resourcing for London going down.  We have to do something different.  It is not an option to sit as we are.

 

Steve O’Connell AM:  Mr Mayor, you referred to also the Police and Crime Plan and aspirations to bring crime down.  We are talking about knife crime later.  The previous Mayor had the MOPAC 7.  People liked it or loathed it.  It was clunky but people knew where they were with it.  They are the facts around it.

 

Your Plan is lacking in numerical targets and that seems to be a thread running through most of your documentation around policing and other areas as well.  How are we able to hold you and you able to hold the police to account and - probably more importantly - how are communities able to hold their local police to account if you do not have a performance regime around targets?

 

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  I would invite you and anybody who is concerned about the consequences of targets to read the Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) report in relation to young people and safeguarding.  One of the points it made - and I am paraphrasing - was that a perverse consequence of the rigid MOPAC 7 targets was that things were left behind, including the safety of young Londoners.

 

It is not good enough, Steve, and what we are doing with the new Police and Crime Plan is making sure that at the core of it we address violence against women and girls and that at the core of it we deal with the safety of young people and that we are going to reduce crime.

 

The context is this, though.  Crime is going up across England and Wales.  You mentioned knife crime.  Knife crime across England and Wales last year went up by 14%.  It is not good enough in London; it went up by 11%.  The context is that crime across the country has gone up by 7% and in London by 3% or 4%.  Crime is going up.  The ambition is to have crime in London going down.

 

I have to tell you again.  The context is record sums cut from our budget by central Government.  I am doing my bit.  Unlike the previous Mayor, I increased the police precept by 1.99% this year.  We will have to see what I do in subsequent years, but I am investing as much resource as I can in the MPS, having to make savings to ensure that we protect frontline officers and restoring real neighbourhood policing because all the experts tell me ‑‑

 

Steve O’Connell AM:  Good.  We have heard.

 

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  ‑‑ that it is really crucial in fighting crime, but I need your help to lobby the Government for more resources.

 

Steve O’Connell AM:  Yes, we have heard that, Mayor.  I hear that you will not be implementing a measurable performance targets regime around the Plan and around policing in the next three years?

 

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  The Police and Crime Plan is quite clear about our ambitions to reduce crime across a whole range of areas ‑‑

 

Steve O’Connell AM:  What we need, Mr Mayor, if you are going to have a disciplined regime and for us to hold you to account and you to hold Craig [Mackey] to account and the communities, is measurable targets to be held to account.  They are not in the Police and Crime Plan.  Will you be introducing them?

 

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  That is not right.  If you have read the Police and Crime Plan, you will know about the dashboards we are going to be publishing each quarter and, unlike the previous Mayor because I believe in transparency, quarterly reports from the MPS.  Craig will readily tell you about the stuff they are having to print and make public because performance indicators really do matter.  The dashboards will be user-friendly so that members of each community can see how their local police service is operating.  We will make sure that within the confines of budget restraints we hold them to account.

 

Steve O’Connell AM:  Again, I am getting nowhere on this, Chair.  Clearly, I look forward to data being produced.  In the last year I have been hearing from communities that the data has been lacking.  That is the fact of the matter.  I know that you have done some work on that.  It is one thing introducing figures, but you need to have targets on the back of those figures.  Otherwise, you are not going to get anywhere.  I had best leave it at that because I do not seem to be getting too far.