THE GOVERNMENT yesterday came under growing pressure to reconsider its decision to reduce police numbers, after Britain was gripped by the worst riots in a generation.
Boris Johnson, the Tory London Mayor, and Harriet Harman, the deputy Labour leader, found rare common cause and denounced plans to cut the police budget as part of the government’s austerity measures.
The Metropolitan police, which says it has been “stretched” by the recent civil unrest, is expected to be asked to cut 2,000 officers from a force of 32,000 over the next four years.
In an intervention that will prove highly embarrassing for David Cameron, Johnson said the government’s case for making savings had “always been frail”, and argued that “this is not a time think about making substantial cuts in police numbers”. He made it clear he was talking about cuts in “the country as a whole” – not just London.
The Mayor received unlikely backing from Harman, who said Labour was “demanding a moratorium on cuts to London police”, adding “this is what our constituents are asking us for”.
Johnson was quickly slapped down by Number 10, which said the cuts were “manageable” and by Home Secretary Theresa May, who said “money can be taken out of police budgets without stopping them doing their jobs”.
A Home Office source said: “Last time I checked, the Home Secretary set the budget for the Met – not Boris.”