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Chancellor dishes out £100m to fight knife crime as Tower Hamlets mayor urges him to reverse police cuts

PUBLISHED: 13:00 13 March 2019 | UPDATED: 15:48 13 March 2019

Mayor Biggs urges Chancellor to reverse police cuts. Picture: Mike Brooke

Mayor Biggs urges Chancellor to reverse police cuts. Picture: Mike Brooke

Mike Brooke

The Mayor of Tower Hamlets has called on Chancellor Philip Hammond to reverse cuts to police budgets as part of today’s Spring Statement.

Now the chancellor appears to have listened to critics and earmarked an extra £100 million to be made available to police forces over the next year.

A reduction in police and community support has hit the streets of London’s East End over the past nine years, mayor John Biggs pointed out.

He urged the Chancellor to reverse the cuts which has resulted in 500 fewer officers since 2010.

“The government is locked in a state of denial about the impact of the cuts,” the mayor said. “It refuses to listen to even the most senior police officers.

“You simply can’t take hundreds of police officers off the streets without an impact. It’s falling to local councils to try and fill the gaps.”

But now the Chancellor has agreed to “pay for additional overtime targeted specifically on knife crime”, he told MPs in the Commons.

Up till now Tower Hamlets Council has had to take cash from the town hall coffers to pay for extra police and a squad to tackle anti-social behaviour.

“But local authorities don’t have the resources to replace every officer the government scraps,” the mayor had pointed out.

His own budget for this year has put aside £1.7m for more enforcement officers.

London’s police commissioner Cressida Dick said last month that there was “some link between violent crime on the streets and police numbers”, contradicting the prime minister’s assertion the day before that there was no link.

The Met’s Tower Hamlets and Hackney divisions that merged into a single command last year inherited 1,613 officers, around 500 fewer than 2010 in the two areas combined. The number of community support officers has fallen from 254 to 47 in the same period.

Police stations have also been closed in Limehouse, Brick Lane and the Isle of Dogs, leaving just one 24-hour operation at Bethnal Green.

That won’t be reversed in the Chancellor’s Spring Statement which is aimed at tackling rising knife crime. The last 12 months was London’s bloodiest year in almost a decade with killings reaching 135, including the East End.

Deputy Mayor Asma Begum, cabinet member for community safety, said earlier today: “We need the Chancellor to recognise the damage austerity is doing and put money back into vital services that people rely on. Crime and anti-social behaviour is one of our biggest concerns.”

The London Assembly which also made calls for extra police funding is waiting to see how the Chancellor’s extra money might help the Met’s fight against the rise in knife crime.

The Assembly’s police and crime chair Steve O’Connell said: “We’ve argued that the focus must be prevention as well as enforcement. The Chancellor’s announcement acknowledges that answers don’t come easily—but there is urgent resolve to rid our streets of this scourge.”

The Met has had its funding cut by £850m since 2010 and is now expected to find a further £263m of savings in the next four years. The Chancellor’s £100m bonanza won’t help the Met in the long run as the cash is being spread thinly across the whole country.

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