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Concern Mounts Over Met Austerity Plans

UK’s largest force at risk of failing to provide “efficient or effective” service because it lacks robust plan to deal with cuts

The Metropolitan Police has been identified as one of three police forces at risk of failing to provide an efficient, effective service because it lacks a detailed plan to protect against government spending cuts, a new HMIC report has said.

Of the £302 million savings across all forces that still to be found under the Comprehensive Spending Review settlement, £233 million are in the Met’s budget and HMIs said they had concerns over the lack a developed plan to address this. The figure is around six per cent of the force’s total budget.

Forces have a total saving of £2.4 billion to make by 2015, according to the Policing In Austerity, One Year On report released by the Inspectorate on July 2.

The Met, together with Devon and Cornwall Police and Lincolnshire Police, was listed as a force that would be kept under close scrutiny going forward because of concerns around their current plans to deal with the cuts.

The Met had the highest crime rate – 105 offences per 1,000 people matched with the lowest user satisfaction rate – 74 per cent – of any force in 2011.

“In our professional judgment, and having considered local context, including police cost to the taxpayer, there is a risk that these forces may not be able to provide a sufficiently effective service for the public in the future,” the HMIC report said.

“The Metropolitan Police Service is considered a particular concern because of the size of the outstanding savings requirement, its performance issues and not least the fact that it accounts for one quarter of policing in England and Wales.”

The Met could not provide figures on what proportion of its workforce would be in frontline roles, or the number of staff working in frontline roles it aimed to have by 2015 – the last year of the Comprehensive Spending Review.
But HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary Sir Denis O’Connor defended the Met, saying the force was having to juggle the policing challenges of the Olympics.

He said the force had a “firm intention” of dealing with the issues and aimed to have a budget plan in place by the autumn. He said: “They have got limited time and a lot to do.”

The report noted Lincolnshire Police still needs to find around £3m in savings by 2015. Devon and Cornwall Police has found all the savings it needs to make but is predicting it will have a 10 per cent reduction in the number of frontline staff by 2015.

Later, Chair of the London Assembly Police and Crime Committee Joanne McCartney said that the position in which the Met found itself was of serious concern.

She told reporters “It is disturbing that the Met finds itself one of only three forces which the Chief Inspector (of Constabulary) judges to be at risk of failing to provide an efficient or effective service to the public in the future. This will worry everyone concerned with safety and security in our capital city.

“The conclusions of the HMIC report should impress on Mayor Boris Johnson and his Deputy Stephen Greenhalgh the need for a plan getting to grips with the budgetary challenges facing the Met. They must show that they recognise, as HMIC does, the scale of the problem for policing in the capital as cuts bite.”

Ms McCartney said that an assembly committee meeting on July 5 would examine the progress of the force’s main savings programme, the review of Territorial Policing.

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