7:30am Friday 11th February 2011
By Omar Oakes
Cuts to Merton Police’s budget may be eased after Boris Johnson announced extra funding to end a London-wide recruitment freeze.
Merton Police is due to have a 30 per cent reduction in its operating budget by 2014, which has led the Borough Commander Dick Wolfenden to describe his job being about “spinning plates and trying to keep the shop open”.
But today, the Mayor of London announced that, from Monday, £42m additional funding would be provided for 413 police officers on the capital’s transport network.
It is not known, at this stage, how many of those extra officers will be deployed in Merton as the more are recruited from Monday onwards – ending a hiring freeze since September 2010.
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Mr Johnson, who will stand for re-election in a year’s time, said the Met could become the only force in the country to increase its officers.
He said: “This £42 million investment will make the capital the envy of every police force in the country and will not cost Londoners a penny more.
“We are also rightly protecting safer neighbourhood teams who are a superb asset to fighting local crime.
“My main objective remains to protect front line services and this funding will be an enormous boost to keeping our streets safe and having more uniformed police officers on patrol."
There are currently hundreds of people currently serving as Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) and special constables who will be prioritised for full-time police jobs.
Chief Superintendent Dick Wolfenden, the Borough Commander, told Merton councillors last month: “The future doesn’t look great.
"We’ve got to find between 4 and 5 per cent in the next financial year.
"By 2014 I’ll be operating with 25 to 30 per cent less than I had eight months ago.
“If that was in the private sector, if someone asked you to run your business with 30 per cent less cash, most people would find that very difficult.
“My life, right now, is all about spinning plates and trying to keep the shop open.
"It’s been incredibly difficult and I’m fighting battles on all sorts of different fronts.”
But, he insisted, none of the cuts had so far led to a reduction in frontline police numbers.
Savings have instead been made by shedding the force’s police cars, tightening allowances for overtime and petrol consumption, and even providing staff with fewer uniforms.
A Metropolitan Police spokesman said the funding was "gret news". He said: "It means that the cuts to the MPS budget for 2011/12 are now significantly reduced.
"The final MPS budget still needs sign off from the Metropolitan Police Authority however this investment, of £42m, will allow the MPS to begin some police officer recruitment."
What do you think? Can budget cuts be made without affecting front-line services? Leave a comment below or email us.
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