Crime in London is falling at a slower rate than the rest of England and Wales and pressure to make savings may hamper the Met’s attempts to improve the service, a report published today claims.
In its annual Pre-Budget Report, the London Assembly’s Budget and Performance Committee outlines the key issues facing Mayor Boris Johnson as he puts the finishing touches to his 2014/15 budget and calls for more information about how budget cuts will affect services.
Between 2003 and 2013 crime fell by 38 per cent across England and Wales. But in the same period it fell by only 27 per cent in London and the report questions how continued spending cuts will affect the ability of the Mayor to hit his three main policing pledges; to reduce crime and increase public confidence by 20 per cent over the 4 years to 2016, while reducing costs by 20 per cent.
The report acknowledges that, while the Met looks on track to hit its savings targets and crime is falling, only 78 per cent of victims felt satisfied by the service they received in comparison to 85 per cent across the country.
The Committee goes on to question whether replacing older and more experienced officers with cheaper new recruits will affect the service Londoners receive from the police and calls for a detailed breakdown of how the Met intends to find the remainder of it £500m savings target.
John Biggs AM, Chair of the Budget and Performance Committee, said: " With London lagging behind the rest of England and Wales on victim satisfaction, the Met needs to ask some serious questions about how they can build trust and cut crime, while still driving down costs.
"In particular, we’d like to know the impact of replacing experienced officers with cheaper new recruits, and whether declining police morale is having an effect on the service victims receive from the police. I hope the Mayor will take on board the recommendations of our report and provide the Assembly with the information and assurances we need before we consider his budget over the coming months."
The report also makes recommendations about other spending areas, including housing, transport and funding for growth and economic development. It supports calls for the GLA to become the official land disposal agent for the capital, leading on the sale of surplus Government land – owned by the NHS, MoD and other public bodies – that could be used for affordable housing.
On transport, the report welcomes the Mayor’s decision to limit average fares to an increase in line with inflation but warns that this is a one-off deal. It also calls for TfL to publish fully-costed options to encourage part-time work, reduce travel costs for low-paid workers, and encourage people to travel outside of peak time.
The report warns that the uncertainty around government grants and the income from business rates make long term budget planning difficult. It calls on the government to implement the findings of the London Finance Commission and allow more of the money raised in London to be spent in London.
The Mayor is expected to publish his draft consultation budget shortly before Christmas. The London Assembly will then consider it at a series of public meetings in early 2014 with a final decision on whether to amend the budget on 14 February.