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Met Commissioner warns: Expect cuts to frontline force

PUBLISHED: 06:00 02 July 2015

Met Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe

Met Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe

2013 Getty Images

The force expects to be ordered to make another £800 million of cuts next week

People in Bromley and Bexley must prepare themselves for fewer police on their streets if the Met is forced into more huge budget cuts next month, the force’s chief officer has warned.

Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, said he expected the force would be ordered to cut another £800 million in the Conservatives’ emergency Budget on July 8.

The frightening warning came at a question and answer session for people in the two boroughs at Bromley Central Library last Wednesday.

Responding directly to a question from the Bromley Times, Sir Bernard said: “At some point in the next 12 months, I expect we will be announcing how many fewer officers we will have.

“It’s clear that by November we will have less money. On July 8, I think we will lose another £800 million.

“We have some plans about how we think we can wisely save that and keep the front line strong, but there will be an impact.

“I think we will be all right for another 18 months. After that it will deteriorate.”

So far, despite budget cuts of 18 per cent, the Met has managed not to cut any of its 30,000 frontline officers – one of only four police forces out of 43 in England and Wales to do so.

“We have fewer managers, fewer buildings, and 3,500 fewer police staff,” Sir Bernard said.

“People aren’t happy when you close police stations, but we were probably paying people to wait for someone who wasn’t coming.”

But he said there was no good solution to the problem - and warned that borough forces might also have to be merged.

“We don’t want to fuse boroughs, but clearly it has to be an option,” Sir Bernard said.

“It may be possible to have one chief superintendent who sits over two boroughs, and that they keep their local superintendent and local contact.

“There are risks with it, but there is no no risk option anymore. When you have to save £4.4 billion, every option looks unattractive. It’s your money, so if we haven’t got it, the only way to get it is to tax more.

“We will be considering whether we have to outsource some things. If private companies could do some things more cheaply - and they probably could - we could save about £100 million.”

At the start of the meeting, Sir Bernard presented figures which showed that crime in Bromley had already risen by 5.4 per cent this year – more than double the Met average - compared with the previous 12 months. Crime in Bexley rose by 2.3 per cent.

Violence with injury rose by 23 per cent in Bexley and 16.9 per cent in Bromley, compared with 17.7 per cent across the capital.

However, burglary dropped by 32.2 per cent in Bexley and 17.9 per cent in Bromley – both better than the Met average. Antisocial behaviour dropped by 26.4 per cent in Bexley and 18.5 per cent in Bromley.

Sir Bernard said he thought the increase in violent crime was due to better recording of offences by police, as police data had been compared with health service data, which showed no increase in hospital admissions as a result of violent crime.

He also attributed an 82 per cent rise in reports of serious sexual violence over the last two years - a quarter of which concern historical offences – partly to the “Jimmy Savile effect”.

“It’s the first time in four years that there’s been an overall rise in crime,” he added.

Sir Bernard took questions on subjects ranging from the use of tazers to the The Met television series.

He said he did not think the force needed more tazers.

“I don’t think I want to extend them to more officers - if everyone has one, there’s a cost, and people have to be trained,” he said.

“If I thought it was needed I would do it tomorrow, but at the moment officers are not arguing for it.”

On the subject of The Met, he added: “If you believe 90 per cent of the people you lead are good, then what’s the risk of the BBC watching you?”

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