Cressida Dick calls for more money for the Met after terrorist attacks
The Metropolitan police commissioner has warned that her force is financially stretched and that she needs more money to “do the job” of policing the capital in the aftermath of the Westminster, London Bridge and Finsbury Park terrorist attacks.
Cressida Dick said she was in talks with the Home Office and the mayor about funding, while a string of other chief constables joined her in warning about the impact of past cuts and future funding changes.
“We need the resources to do the job. We’re stretched and I’m talking with the mayor and the government about the resources we need,” Dick said. “We undoubtedly need a very capable police service in the future for all the reasons people can see.”
Steve Finnigan, the outgoing chief constable of Lancashire, told the Guardian he believes past spending cuts left people feeling less safe and warned that forces across the country had reached a point of no return.
Finnigan, who leaves the police this week after 41 years, is the longest serving chief constable in the UK. He said he understood the need for the police to make a contribution during a period of austerity but that the cuts had been “too quick and too deep”.
Finnigan said: “I have said for many years now that there will be a time lag [on the impact of the cuts] and I think we are seeing that now. The cracks are appearing in policing … We are at a tipping point and we need to have an honest conversation. I do think people are less safe in this country now and I say that with a really heavy heart.”
Although there were spending cuts under the coalition government, the Home Office says police funding has been broadly flat in cash terms since the 2015 spending review when an expected further round of 20% cuts was cancelled in the aftermath of the Paris terror attacks.
Home Office sources say no decisions have been made on changes to the police funding formula, which are expected to hit inner city forces hardest, and no new formula will be introduced without public consultation.
“Police funding has been protected since the spending review in 2015. There is more money and more officers for each Londoner than anywhere else in the country and the Metropolitan police, like all forces, continue to have the resources they need to keep us safe and secure,” said a Home Office spokesperson.
The former Met commissioner Sir Ian Blair said on Wednesday that, as far as he understood it, the Met could lose up to £400m by 2021 as a result of the changes. Sadiq Khan, the London mayor, has said that up to 12,800 more police jobs could be at risk.
The government took £2.3bn out of the policing budget between 2010 and 2015. The number of police officers in England and Wales has fallen from a peak of 144,353 in 2009 to 122,859 in 2016. Meanwhile, the number of specialist armed police officers has dipped from a peak of 6,796 in 2010 to 5,639 in 2016.
Lancashire constabulary has seen its £301m budget fall by £75m since 2010, a cut of 25%. Eighty per cent of the force’s expenditure goes on personnel, and 800 police officers and 400 police staff have left the force since 2010.
Finnigan, who has been chief constable for 11 years, called on the government to reinvest in neighbourhood policing, saying it was vital to the effort of tackling extremism.
“If you’ve not got police officers and police community support officers out on the ground talking to people – hopefully people who have trust and confidence in our staff – then we will not get the information and the intelligence that we need,” he said.
“I do believe that that cherished model of policing that’s very preventative and very proactive, is rapidly moving towards a reactive model of policing, which is just not good enough.”
Police chiefs elsewhere joined in with the calls. Writing on Twitter, Dave Thompson, chief constable of West Midlands police, said the force expected this weekend to be “one of the busiest ever for demand in a period of enhanced security threat”.
Speaking to the Liverpool Echo, Andy Cooke, chief constable of Merseyside police, said he had never known a situation where police officers were “pushed to the limit in dealing with everything we need to deal with to keep our communities safe”.
Merseyside police has seen its budget reduce by almost £100m and has lost more than 1,000 officers since 2010. This comes as the region has seen a sharp rise in gun crime over the past 18 months.
The Home Office has been battling for two years with police forces in England and Wales to introduce a redrawn funding formula to distribute Whitehall grants. Ministers first faced unprecedented threats of legal action first by inner-city forces and then by shire county forces.
They then had to withdraw a third version after it was found that it would have left 31 out of the 42 forces worse off and was based on inaccurate data.