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London is gripped by a violent and gang-crime epidemic. With the death toll so far this year at over 50 people in the country’s capital, questions are being asked of the Metropolitan Police and Sadiq Khan.
Now, a House of Commons Briefing Paper released just before Easter suggests that austerity will no doubt have played a fundamental contributory role in the recent spate of attacks.
Across 43 police forces in England and Wales, the number of active officers has dived from 143,734 in March 2010 to 123,142 in March 2017. On top of this, figures from September 2017 show that the numbers have continued to tumble down to 121,929.
London’s Metropolitan Police has lost 1,850 police officers.
Many have been quick to blame London Mayor Sadiq Khan for the shocking rise in violent gang crime in the Capital, but the facts show that the dwindling number of police is almost entirely the fault of the government.
Indeed, Sadiq Khan has done near-everything within his power to mitigate the devastating effects of central Government cuts. In February of 2018, he announced £110m funding for the Metropolitan Police. Such an investment means that City Hall is paying a greater percentage of capital police funding than ever before. His funding announcement translated to 23% of the police budget, up from just 18% in 2010.
It can be no coincidence that since the imposition of the Tories’ ideological austerity in 2010, knife crime, gang violence and fatalities in the capital have soared.
Central Government is responsible for 70% of Metropolitan Police funding, and that funding has been cut by £700m since 2010 – around 40%. In January of 2018, Khan warned of the fallout of these surgical cuts – cuts that mean while the Mayor is doing all he can with City Hall’s budget – including raising council tax by the highest amount legally allowable and hiking business rates – the Metropolitan Police are having to make savings, with Khan left helpless to plug the gap of frontline police.
The Tories’ massive cuts to the Met have been utterly disastrous for overall police manpower in London: police staff posts have dropped from 14,330 to 9,985, Police Community Support Officer posts have fallen from 4,607 to 1,591 and the capital has lost 114 police station front counters, and 120 police buildings.
In the light of these figures, is it any wonder that Britain’s capital is seeing a rise in violent crime on its streets?
Labour Shadow Home Secretary, Diane Abbott, has noted that the causes of violent crime are multifaceted and it is an issue that requires a calm, measured response instead of knee-jerk, reactive policies.
For example, the gutting of youth services after the imposition of austerity will no doubt have fuelled a sense of desperation and wantonness among London’s youth. For instance, unofficial figures suggest that nearly 1,000 Sure Start centres have closed under the Tories.
Again, the Mayor is doing what he can to mitigate central Government’s damage. Sadiq has created a £45m fund to help young Londoners, which will see £15m invested over the next three years and targeted at those most at risk of falling into crime.
The damning statistics aren’t unique to London, either. Greater Manchester has lost 1,830 police officers, while the West Midlands has been cut by 1,870 officers. Northumbria brings home the extent of the cuts most starkly, having seen its police officer-numbers reduce from 4,187 in 2010 to 1,188 in 2017.
One thing is for certain, when England and Wales lags at 28 out of a table of 33 countries measuring police strength, there are less means to stop crime on the streets. While the causes of street crime are complex, preventing it is made far easier with more Bobbies on the Beat.
Indeed, the police themselves have blamed Theresa May’s policies for the spilling of blood on London streets, citing the fact that the police have lost control of public space.
The Government needs to reinvest the funds into London’s youth, so that the draw of gangs, drugs and violence looks less alluring. Youth services often take the burden off pressured, poor families so that they are able to raise their children. At the same time, it needs to ensure that there are the police on the streets so that the consequences of crime are immediately apparent.
But with the Tories destroying police numbers in England and Wales, any sort of immediate response to the current typhoon of violent crime is stymied.