Tower Hamlets cannot replace all the local police officers lost to funding cuts, according to Mayor John Biggs, after his plea to the Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond to increase police funding were ignored.
In a letter to Hammond ahead of the budget announcement, Biggs warned that community policing in the borough has been “severely impacted” by cuts, with serious concerns among local people over anti-social behaviour and drug abuse and limited officers on the streets. In a statement, Biggs said: “Crime has increased across the whole of the UK, and in Tower Hamlets the government’s cuts to police budgets have directly led to the Met’s decision to close front counters at Limehouse and Brick Lane police stations.
“I hope the Chancellor uses the Budget to give the police the funding they need to do their job.”
However, Hammond announced no extra funding for the police in the budget yesterday.
Police officers in the borough have dropped by 25 per cent from 880 to 630 since 2010, and 75 per cent of PCSO officers have also been lost. Tower Hamlets council have even more reason for concern after the announcement that the Metropolitan Police will close their front counters at Limehouse and Brick Lane police stations, as a result of government cuts to their funding.
To replace some of the cutbacks, Tower Hamlets have allocated £3million for council funded officers, hoping to introduce 14 new officers responsible for tackling crime on estates and 25 additional across the borough.
Speaking at the full council meeting last night, Councillor Asma Begum, cabinet member for Community Safety said: “We have heard the voices of residents about the specific issues they want to target… over anti-social behaviour and drug use… New officers will help make Tower Hamlets a better place.”
However, as ELL revealed last week, and as opposition leader Oliur Rahman confirmed in last night’s meeting, the Metropolitan Police have yet to agree to the introduction of the new officers. Biggs did not respond to this claim.
The Metropolitan Police has had to make savings of £600m since 2013 and is expected to save a further £400m by 2020/2021.
Biggs claimed: “Although we have introduced new funding for more police officers in the borough, this cannot be a long term plan as we are using council reserves. The council can introduce new officers, but we could never replace every officer the Government has scrapped.”
A number of independent councillors in the meeting personally attacked Mayor Biggs, calling him the “penny pinching mayor”, and condemning him for giving himself a pay rise.
Biggs responded: “I am the least paid mayor in London, if that’s all you have to use against me then you need to think harder about the people of Tower Hamlets.”