An influential think-tank is warning of a risk that London’s safety and security will be undermined because of the impact of austerity on police and the public sector.
The warning comes in an independent report, ‘Safer Together’, which was written by the RSA. The think-tank has previously published a report about the Police Federation and specialises in public sector reform.
The RSA says the next decade will be ‘amongst the most challenging in the Met’s history’ and says the organisation is facing ‘acute pressure’ which requires a new approach to public safety.
It calls for ‘fundamental changes in the way London organizes its collective resources’ in order to keep people who visit, live or work in the capital safe and secure. This should be ‘embodied in a new civic contract’ to ensure the safety of this vibrant global city and its people.
The RSA consulted widely with local authorities, the Mayor's Office for Policing & Crime, the NHS and other parts of the criminal justice system to produce its report. In all, 41 separate bodies contributed formally to the consultation, and a group of the leading academics in policing and criminology also took part.
The report was commissioned by the MPS, and 700 leaders in the Met were asked by the RSA to identify the biggest issues facing them today and towards 2020.
The RSA used this research, and the consultation with external bodies, to write an independent report which has today been delivered to the Commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe.
Met Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said:
“This report highlights the challenges we face from austerity. Policing will have to change, we can expect to lose officers. What is really important for us about policing London is that it is the economic engine for the country, the reason people come here is because they feel safe, whether it is businesses or people who want to bring the kids up or people want to grow old here."
The RSA says the Met has been successful over the past 5 years in focusing on efficiency and reducing crime.The next decade, it says, requires both radical changes to policing and new ways of working.
The report analyses changing patterns of crime, in particular the growth of crimes within households and families, such as domestic abuse, and crimes carried out remotely using digital means such as the internet.
The RSA highlights the challenges posed by a rapidly rising and increasingly diverse population in London and identifies a need to redistribute police and public safety resources to the east of the capital where crime demands are rising fastest.
The report’s author, Anthony Painter from the RSA, said:
“The Metropolitan Police is a critical component of London's infrastructure and its continuing success as a global city. As resources are increasingly constrained, demands on the police are simultaneously becoming more complex. Headline crime figures which have been heading in a positive direction somewhat mask this reality.“
The RSA also says that that 'adapting to these challenges isn't the responsibility of the Met alone'. However, it also highlighted concerns amongst the Met’s partners that it might 'start to withdraw and retrench' under budgetary pressure.
Anthony Painter from the RSA adds:
“To continue its success in fighting crime and ensuring London's safety, the Met will have to adapt significantly to this complex and constrained operational environment. But all public services and other stakeholders in the commercial and voluntary sectors also need to think creatively about how London can be kept safe.“
Concluding its analysis of the consultation, the RSA suggest a variety of ideas to support a new civic contract, including a Public Safety Index which would track all the factors that keep London safe, not just police activity. It supports new collaborative approaches between the Met and a renewed community engagement strategy.
The MPS has today issued an invitation to all those partners who took part in the consultation or who are responsible for public safety services in the capital to attend a ‘London Summit’. This will be an opportunity to discuss the impact of austerity on public safety and agree a collective response where possible.