New figures obtained by Labour London Assembly Member Joanne McCartney show that in May this year (the latest period available) there were 1,209 vacancies for police sergeants and constables across the capital’s borough forces.
The high vacancy rates come on top of significant cuts in police numbers since the Government came to power, with official figures showing 4,694 police officers and PCSOs cut from London’s streets between May 2010 and May 2014. A report last year also found that the proportion of the Met’s officers deemed ‘visible’ was the third lowest in England and Wales.
In total, fourteen boroughs had vacancy rates of over 6%, with five facing double-digit deficits. Harrow is shown to have the highest percentage of vacancies, with 15% of its sergeant and constable posts unfilled. Waltham Forest had the highest overall number, with 72 vacancies from a force of 664.
The figures were revealed after HMIC warned that “forces across England and Wales plan to achieve most of their savings by reducing the number of police officers, PCSOs, and police staff… most of the savings [of the MPS] come from reducing the size of the workforce.”
London Assembly Labour Group Police and Crime Spokesperson, Joanne McCartney AM, said:
“In his manifesto, Boris Johnson pledged to put more officers on the beat. In reality, what we have seen is nearly five thousand police officers and PCSOs cut from London’s streets since this Government came to power. Now we learn that on top of this, some forces are missing 15% of their sergeants and constables due to unfilled vacancies. It is an absolute scandal that police numbers have been allowed to fall this low, and these vacancies are leaving a gaping hole at the heart of the Met.
“Whilst a small churn in the number of officers is to be expected, these are deeply concerning figures. When a force has up to 15% of its positions unfilled we need to ask not only what impact that has on policing, but why it was allowed to happen in the first place. Either the depth of officer morale is so low they are hemorrhaging officers, or these posts are being kept open to keep costs down. Either way, the Mayor should take immediate action to ensure our police force is up to strength and vacancies are filled as quickly as possible.”
Uma Kumaran, Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate in Harrow East, said:
“These figures are deeply worrying and highlight a significant shortfall in the number of police officers on our streets in Harrow. It is simply unacceptable that these many positions are being left unfilled.
The Mayor of London should be spending less time focusing on his Parliamentary ambitions and more on ensuring we have enough police to keep London safe. This is yet another hidden cost of this Tory-led Government’s cuts to frontline services.”