Public safety was one of the biggest issues raised on the doorstep at the general election earlier this year. Politicians have no greater responsibility than keeping the public safe from harm.
I am deeply concerned that under the Tories, crime is on the rise across the UK once again. Although it is rising less in London, it is still moving in the wrong direction.
The most violent crimes like knife and acid attacks are rising even faster. And we face an unprecedented level of threat from terrorism – which security experts have deemed to be a long-term shift rather than an isolated spike.
This deeply worrying backdrop makes the Government’s failure to properly fund our police service all the more astonishing.
In London, Tory cuts have slashed £600million from the policing budget in London since 2010 and the Met is now being forced to find an additional £400million of savings by 2021. On top of this, there is set to be a 7% reduction in counter-terrorism funding in real terms over the next three years.
My constituents are already feeling the impact of these Tory cuts. According to the most recent projections, the number of police officers in London could fall below 27,500 by 2021 – a 19-year low – without urgent additional funding from the Government.
Just this week, the Met’s Deputy Commissioner, Craig Mackey, issued a deeply worrying warning about these numbers – stating that if the Tory Government don’t sort out this funding crisis there would be “severe consequences” and “we [the Met] may have to scale back our response – both on the phone and on the ground”.
This has left the Met Police with no choice but to make the extremely difficult decision to protect front-line police numbers in the face of these drastic government cuts. That means closing police station front counters – which no one wants to happen, merging back office policing functions and looking again at which crimes they can prioritise. Closing the most disused front counters in London will save £8million – the equivalent of the cost of 140 police constables.
Since he become Mayor, Sadiq Khan has made public safety his highest priority. He is doing everything possible to improve policing in London despite these cuts. By prioritising neighbourhood policing, he is on track to deliver an extra dedicated police officer in every ward of London by the end of 2017. And he has launched a new knife crime strategy to tackle the rise of violent crime in the capital head on, as well as developing a new policing plan for London.
But the Mayor simply can’t keep Londoners safe on his own. We need the Tory Government to step up and do their bit. The upcoming Budget is a golden opportunity to increase real-term funding for the Met and for police forces around the country. No one wants to see police numbers falling or more police stations closed, but it’s up to the Government to act. They should be cutting crime, not the Police.
Wes Streeting is the Labour MP for Ilford North and a Member of the Treasury Select Committee