Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Hammersmith & Fulham police face £2.7 million shortfall next year

Hammersmith & Fulham's police force spent £38,552,190 last year. But figures released by the the Metropolitan Police under the Freedom of Information Act reveal their proposed budget for next year (2011/12) has been reduced to £35,808,174.

Local London Assembly member, Murad Qureshi, has spoken to me and described the cut as deeply worrying. Arguing that the recent looting, arson and riots in London should make the mayor and government think again, Murad said: 
"I'm deeply worried that slashing our local police will affect their ability to keep us safe and keep us feeling safe. We saw in August how important it is to have police on the streets when trouble hits. The mayor and the government should take note and reverse their police cuts." 
And the Police have responded to Murads' claims by telling me that having to find savings on such a scale is "extremely challenging" but they remain "committed" to keeping us safe. Not a ringing endorsement, really. Here's what a spokeswoman from Scotland Yard told me yesterday:
"The MPS (Metropolitan Police Service) has been very proactive in seeking to identify savings from areas such as its estate, vehicles, contracts, etc. so that it can prioritise the continued delivery of operational policing services. 
In order to keep London safe it is necessary to maintain a balance of highly visible and publicly accessible uniform officers, and specialist investigators who have the additional skills to target rapists, child abusers, and drug and people traffickers amongst a wide range of other crimes. 
The MPS has delivered cumulative savings of £581m between 2008/09 and 2010/11. In addition, the MPS plans to make further savings this year of £163m.
Finding the £600million savings that we are likely to have to make by 2014/15 is extremely challenging but the MPS is committed to keeping the capital safe whilst it does so".
Well it would be worrying if the MPS was no longer committed to that, but you can read between the lines here without too much trouble can't you - they are not happy about the hand they have been dealt either, and talking to local police here you get a very similar message. Cutting front-line police numbers like this is fine ... until you have another round of rioting. Or the Olympics. 

But our Council has another take entirely. Lauding their claim to be supporting more 'town centre' police constables than before, Cllr Greg Smith, Cabinet Member for Residents Services, says: 
“Beat bobbies beat crime and, despite the nationwide spending squeeze, we have found a way to improve our town centre squads by putting more PCs onto the front-line than ever before. This will give us some of the best Policed town centres in Britain.”
Which all sounds great - but the simple fact is that the Shepherd's Bush Safer Neighbourhood Team has been cut. Constable numbers have gone up from 10 to 13 but Police Community Support Officers have gone down from fifteen to six. And before people say "only" PCSOs - here's what I saw them do one Saturday night in the Bush for a frightened victim of crime in W12.

So three different opinions - one a politician with an interest in bashing the Government, another politician with an interest in putting the best possible spin on things and then the police caught in the middle. And it's them I think we should be listening closest to.

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