Diane Abbott’s gaffe this morning about police funding has already become an infamous indictment of Labour’s financial illiteracy.
Hiring a police officer is not cheap – and certainly not the £8 a year that Diane Abbott said! But even when she read from her script, she said that it would cost £298 million to employ 10,000 police officers: or £29,800 each a year. Except, err… it costs the Metropolitan Police £66,000 to employ a police constable. So even Labour’s actual plan makes no sense.
But there is one way that Diane Abbott’s sums kind of add up – at least for local authorities. Under the Metropolitan Police’s MetPatrol Plus scheme, launched by Boris Johnson when he was Mayor, the Greater London Authority gives local councils and similar bodies the funding for an additional police officer for each they fund out of their own coffers.
So that would mean Camden Council would effectively have to pay just £33,000 to hire each officer – while City Hall pays the other £33,000.
The Conservative budget – which I seconded in February – proposed hiring new police officers through this scheme, to bolster neighbourhood teams. Currently, this is only done in Camden Town, but we believe the whole borough should benefit.
Strangely, the London Assembly member for Barnet & Camden has attacked Conservative-run Barnet for not taking advantage of the scheme, while attacking Camden Conservatives for wanting to! Funny how hypocritical party-politics makes some people.
Of course, even if Camden did use the scheme, Diane Abbott’s sums still don’t make sense, as City Hall would be left with a huge funding black hole. But it does make sense for Camden. Putting more police on the beat is a worthy goal – and thanks to Boris Johnson’s match funding scheme, it’s an achievable and affordable one, too.