Met faces lowest staffing levels in decade, says chief

A Metropolitan police officer outside New Scotland Yard in London
Met Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley says the force is struggling with inadequate funding and low recruitment [EPA]

The Metropolitan Police is heading for its lowest staffing levels in a decade by March next year, commissioner Sir Mark Rowley has warned.

Britain's biggest police force has seen a shortfall partly due to inadequate funding and low recruitment, according to Sir Mark.

Plans to reform the force will have to slow down as the Met faces a budget hole of £400m in 2025-26, a document submitted to the London Policing Board said.

According to the Home Office, the Met will receive up to £3.5bn in 2024-25, an increase of up to £125.8m on the previous year.

'High operational strain'

The document said frontline teams were being placed under "high operational strain" by having to deal with large-scale protests in London, which cost £70m last year, and there was increased demand for dealing with violence against women and girls.

An application for £70m from the Home Office to release about 1,000 officers from desk jobs was refused, the report said.

Sir Mark wrote: "By March 2025, there will be 310 police officers per 100,000 Londoners.

"In March 2012, this was at 350 police officers. This position is projected to worsen and trend towards our lowest point of the last decade.

"This is being driven in part by inadequate funding and by low recruitment over recent years due to the rising cost of living in London relative to other parts of the UK, and other challenges."

Figures in the report show a drop since March 2023 - going from 342 officers per 100,000 Londoners that year, to 330 in March this year and 310 in March 2025.

The Met was already 1,400 officers below a staffing target set by the Home Office at the end of 2023-24, and this is expected to drop a further 1,250 by the end of 2024-25.

Force bosses already have plans to move 300 officers out of back office roles in a bid to help plug the gap.

The Home Office said the £3.5bn the Met will receive in 2024-25 includes £185.3m in recognition of the increased demand the Met faces from policing the capital city.

Zoë Garbett, Green member of the London Assembly Police and Crime Committee, said: “The long-promised, long-awaited culture reform of the Metropolitan Police cannot wait another day.

"It’s inexcusable that this government refuses to provide the Met with the resources needed to move forward with this urgent work.

"The quicker the Met can reform, and the quicker the Met can recruit new officers, the quicker the Met can work on community priorities."

Paul Kohler, Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Wimbledon, said: "These shocking figures show local forces are being decimated by this Conservative government.

"We’ve lost thousands of good local officers from our communities and now too many criminals are going unpunished."

'Pen-pushing bureaucrats'

Mr Kohler added: “The Liberal Democrats are calling for a return to proper community policing. That is why I successfully took the mayor to court to stop the closure of Wimbledon Police Station.

“It's the only way to keep our streets safe. We must give local forces the resources they need to cut crime."

Susan Hall, Conservative member at the London Assembly, said London Mayor Sadiq Khan - who has overall responsibility for the force - did not meet government targets for recruiting officers.

She added the mayor, for Labour, had instead increased the number of "pen-pushing bureaucrats in his Police and Crime office".

Labour declined to comment.

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