London

Met chief: 'Hard choices' over Police Community Support Officer numbers

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Media captionSir Bernard Hogan-Howe said "hard choices" had to be made

The Met Police Commissioner has warned proposed budget cuts will make it inevitable officer numbers will fall.

Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said there were "hard choices" to be made over whether the number of Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) could be maintained.

In a speech on Thursday, he said: "We don't think our current funding from the home office fully recognises the challenges of policing our capital."

The force has previously said it is expects to make cuts of £800m by 2019.

Sir Bernard delivered the speech, entitled 2020 Vision - Public Safety in a Global City, to an audience at the Royal Society of Arts in Westminster.

When questioned by the BBC London News on whether budget cuts meant the end of PCSOs, he answered: "I don't think it necessarily marks the end, but over the last few years it's gone from 5,000 to 1,800 - that's a big drop and that's helped us keep our police officers at 32,000.

"These are hard choices - we can't keep both but this is the nature of the decision making we are being forced into."

'Can do' organisation

BBC London's Home Affairs correspondent Nick Beake said where some other police chiefs across the country have described the budget cuts as unsuitable, in his speech the commissioner struck a different note saying the Met was a "can do" organisation.

Sir Bernard said: "If you had any doubt, if my officers had any doubt, then let's be clear - the Met is a 'can-do' organisation, and I am a 'can-do' leader. A smaller Met can make London safer."

He added: "We have to decide whether a warranted office with powers of arrest is a better use of our limited resources."

In January the mayor's deputy for policing Stephen Greenhalgh admitted there would be "drastic cuts" to the Met Police budget over the next few years.

The force has said it expected to have to make cuts of £800m to its £3.5bn budget over the next four years.

Sir Bernard said the force needed to be more vocal about the cuts, saying the force could not tackle everything "within a shrinking budget".

The Met Commissioner also added there were opportunities to innovate, including suggestions to merge emergency service call centres.

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