Sadiq Khan has been asked why he is planning to “spend money he does not have” to hire 6,000 new police officers by March, while the Metropolitan Police budget has a projected £1bn black hole over the next three years.
The London Assembly’s Budget and Performance Committee has asked the mayor to explain why he is pushing on with the recruiting push in his 2020-21 budget, which would push the Met severely into the red if the government does not provide more funding.
Under UK legislation, local authorities are not allowed to record budget deficits.
However, Khan has disputed the claim from City Hall’s budgetary oversight body, saying the officers will not be recruited before funding is secured.
The extra police in the mayor’s budget are a part of Boris Johnson’s drive to recruit 20,000 more police across England and Wales by 2022-23.
However, central government has not given details of how funding for this scheme will be distributed and there is no indication London will be given extra funding any time soon.
The London Assembly report said Khan had no “credible plan B” to pay for the new officers if government funding is not made available.
Committee chair, and head of the London Assembly’s Tory caucus, Susan Hall said: “This lack of budget planning is causing a serious and concerning black hole in the Met’s budget.
“No one is arguing against the need to have more police officers on our streets but there must be certainty around where the money to pay for them is coming from.”
A spokesperson for Sadiq Khan said the claims from the committee were “disingenuous”.
“Both the mayor and the Met Commissioner believe London needs 6,000 additional police officers to tackle violent crime in the capital – yet the government’s short-termist approach to funding not only makes it difficult to budget for next year and beyond, but hampers our efforts to tackle crime in London,” they said.
“The reality is the Met recruited its full allocation of 1,369 this year and will soon begin the recruitment of the same number of officers next year.
“We desperately need government to invest in our police after a decade of damaging cuts and with the city in the midst of a global pandemic, but the government has instead chosen to shift even more of the burden onto London taxpayers through an above-inflation council tax rise.”
Khan has asked the Metropolitan police to make savings of £25m over the next year, after the Covid crisis created a black hole in City Hall’s budget.
This shortfall in the Met’s budget is projected to increase substantially each year over the next three years, before reaching £455.3m in 2023-24.
The increasing black hole is largely due to projected increases in wages due to increased police recruitment, according to the budget committee.
The mayor said last week he was hiking council tax by 10 per cent to help pay for the capital’s public services, including policing, as the government had not pledged additional funding.