London Mayor Sadiq Khan has rebuked demands by Philip Hammond that police should shift existing resources into tackling knife crime rather than expect more funding.
In the wake of a string of fatal stabbings on Britain’s streets, Mr Khan said forces in the capital are already prioritising violent crime – and he insisted moving funds will not fill the “massive hole” left by central Government cuts.
The Chancellor has come under fire for telling forces to move officers away from “lower priority” crime and on to knife violence.
His comments, which also included a suggestion that public services would get more cash if MPs vote for Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal, were rejected by Mr Khan.
During a housing visit in north London he told the Press Association: “In London we are prioritising our efforts towards tackling violent crime, tackling knife crime.
“I myself have directed officers to move from roads and transport to do the violent crime taskforce work, so we are really prioritising the resources we have to deal with the issue of the increasing violent crime.
“The stark reality is in London over the last eight years, we have lost more than £800 million of funding from central Government, we’re being asked to make a further round of cuts of £200 million from central Government – that’s a billion pounds lost from the Met Police budget.
“Re-prioritising, increasing council tax, diverting business rates money away doesn’t fill the massive hole left by central Government cuts.”
Mr Khan called on ministers to “reverse the cuts” and “give us the funding we need to make sure there is sufficient policing across London”.
He added: “We’ve got fewer officers now in 2019 than in any time since 2003, when our population has grown by more than a million-and-a-half.
“But also we’ve seen youth services, preventative services, councils, schools have their budgets cut as well, so we need investment in preventative services but also policing too.”
He said London cannot wait another few years to see investment, insisting: “We need it now.
“I’m hoping that the Home Secretary today is able to satisfy the demands made by chief constables across the country, including the Met Police commissioner, we need money now and it can pay for a surge in policing, increased overtime, using money to make sure we have officers doing more work around the clock.”
The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) confirmed on Friday it has sent information to the Home Secretary concerning how much money police forces across the UK need to tackle violent crime.
Home Secretary Sajid Javid held emergency talks with chief constables on Wednesday after a spate of fatal stabbings.
After the meeting he pledged to do “everything I can” to provide police with the resources they need.
A spokesman for the NPCC, who did not confirm a figure, said: “As requested, we have provided the Home Secretary with information about the level of emergency funding that would help police chiefs bear down on violence now.
“Further work is being done over the weekend before a final submission is made on Monday.”
A Home office spokesman said: “The Home Secretary has committed to ensuring the police have the resources they need. The police have provided information and it will be considered carefully.”
Mr Hammond insisted on Thursday that police budgets are rising, and said knife crime is “an immediate problem, you cannot solve it by recruiting and training more officers – that takes time”.
The number of police officers across the 43 forces in England and Wales has fallen by more than 20,000 since 2009, but the Prime Minister has said there is no correlation between the decline and “certain crimes”.
Mr Khan’s comments came after one of Britain’s most senior police officers demanded “harsh” sentences for criminals caught carrying knives as the country’s stabbings death toll continues to rise.
Merseyside Police Chief Constable Andy Cooke said judges need to get tough on people who end up before the courts for carrying weapons, and urged the Government to unite in tackling the issue of knife crime, “rather than putting an obstacle in the way at every turn”.
Mr Cooke told the Daily Express: “We need harsh sentences for people carrying knives. We need to ensure that those sentences are being carried out.
“I think the sentencing guidelines for knife possession are about right. We just need to make sure that those sentences are actually being carried out.
“We need the judiciary to be sentencing at the higher end of the sentencing that they can achieve on each and every occasion.”
Meanwhile Cheshire’s police and crime commissioner warned austerity is killing young people, with cuts in public services linked to increased violent crime in the county.
Commissioner David Keane and Chief Constable Darren Martland outlined their concerns amid falling numbers of police officers in the county since 2010.
The pair said that while cuts to police numbers are not wholly responsible for the rise in violent crimes such as knife crime they believe that cuts to all public services are having an adverse impact.