Do you agree with the idea that a reduction of the number of officers would have an impact on counter-terrorism activity?
Craig Mackey, deputy commissioner, Metropolitan Police: Counter-terrorism funding is usually ringfenced but it requires the whole policing system to work. We know for every £1 we spend of counter-terrorism funding, we spend £2 of core money.
If you say ‘we’ve ringfenced this part of the budget therefore that part of the service is fine’ then that bit of the service probably is fine, but if you need to mobilise a large number of officers you have to treat policing as a system. If you don’t understand how the system works you end up with gaps. If you talk to any officers in the boroughs they are finding it quite stretched.
What does that mean on the ground?
CM: One of things that worked at Westminster [Bridge] was just the ability to mobilise lots of people really quickly – that’s not a protected area of funding.
What about overall funding levels?
Sophie Linden, deputy mayor for policing and crime: We are facing fundamental challenges in keeping our city safe. As well as counter-terrorism we are facing an increase in violence and an increase in crime and those challenges are incredibly difficult. On top of that we are facing budget challenges.
The Met took £600million out of the budget in the last four years and is expected to take £400million out of the budget in the next four years. If the question is – does that challenge the safety and security of Londoners?’ we think it will if this continues.
CM: We have the resources to cope with what we have at the moment – clearly in light of what we’re seeing we need to work through if this is the “new normal” and if that is the case what are the resources we would need. Officers out in the boroughs feel quite hard-pressed. A lot of work and a lot of demand in the system. In the true spirit of the Metropolitan Police they’re coping incredibly well but they’re working incredibly hard to keep us in that position.
Are cuts in other services making an impact?
CM: There is some shunt. The police, along with the ambulance service and the fire service, are a 24-hour service of last resort. You can always get hold of us. That’s not the same with other parts of the public sector where you might get a recorded message. We are seeing work that would be done elsewhere is flowing across to us.
SL: The police service is the canary in the mine. It is the first public service that shows where things are going wrong. For example, there have been cuts in youth services and it has to have an impact.
CM and SL were speaking before the London Assembly budget and performance committee on Tuesday