Police funding settlement branded ‘smoke and mirrors’

8 Jan 18

London’s deputy mayor for policing has said the government’s funding settlement is “smoke and mirrors” and warned the number of officers in the capital could dip below 30,000 because of cuts.

In December, home secretary Amber Rudd announced a total of £270m in England and Wales would be able to be raised by police and crime commissioners through increases in council tax.

But deputy mayor Sophie Linden said cuts would still need to be made because of an expected increase in police pay above 1%, speaking at the Greater London Assembly budget committee last week.

She also criticised the ‘flat cash’ funding settlement for police forces, which does not take inflation into account.

Linden said: “It claimed to have saved policing by putting extra money in, when in actual fact all it’s done is shifted the burden of putting some of the investment into policing on to local taxpayers in London and across the country.

“We still have to find millions of pounds’ worth of savings and actually, if there is more than a 1% increase in pay – needed though it is for the very, very hard-working public servants that the police and police staff are – it would completely wipe out any extra cash that may be in the system.”

She added that settlement amounted to a cut given that inflation currently stands at 3.1% and frontline services were facing increasing demands in the wake of a series of terrorist attacks and a surge in knife crime.

The Metropolitan Police has also asked for additional money to fund 200 officers conducting investigations for the public inquiry into the Grenfell fire.

Finance director Lynda McMullan told the committee the impact of Grenfell has had a “very significant impact”, and that the Met had put in a special grant claim for the current year for £11.1m.

On top of this, the Home Office has been asked to provide around £27m to cover the full costs of officers’ time as they work with the inquiry over the next year.

McMullan said: "We don't think it would be reasonable for us to pick up those full costs, as we know that the investigation will go on for some time."

She said Home Office officials had give formal assurances to come up with the funding, but that no binding agreement with ministers has yet been reached.

Also giving evidence to the committee, London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority director of safety and assurance Steve Apter said “unprecedented events” including Grenfell and terrorist incidents had increased pressure on the fire service budget.

London mayor Sadiq Khan asked for an urgent review of additional specialist equipment and support needed following the incidents.

Along with the police, London Fire Brigade is also receiving extra funding from rises in council tax.

Apter said: “An initial assessment indicated LFB needed £6m-worth of new equipment and an additional £6m a year in running costs.

“£6.8m was agreed to be transferred to an earmarked reserve to temporarily fund a number of resource requirements.”

He added: “Overall, LFEPA has a balanced budget over the four-year planning period. The budget gap over the planning period had stood at £20m, it is now reduced to £1m with nearly £8m remaining in the budget flexibility reserve.

“I really welcome this additional funding, as it would not be possible to achieve a £20m saving without making significant changes to our frontline service.”

In December, Khan outlined proposals to increase his council tax precept by an average of 27p from April 2018, the maximum allowed by government, to put funding into the Metropolitan Police and LFB.

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