Sadiq Khan warned today of a summer of increasing violent crime, particularly among young people, fuelled by “unprecedented levels of economic hardship” in the capital.
Speaking at this month’s London Assembly Mayor’s Question Time session, Khan said that growing financial pressures on Londoners could reverse progress on tackling violence, and announced that he was calling on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to provide emergency funding to keep young people away from crime.
Citing recent polling reporting that more than half of Londoners were financially struggling or “just about managing”, Khan said extra cash was urgently needed for diversionary schemes during the school holidays. “With the cost of living crisis getting worse week on week, I am concerned about this summer,” he said. “That is why I’ve written to the PM.”
The session also saw Khan clash with Assembly member Susan Hall, his newly-selected Conservative opponent at next year’s mayoral election, over crime figures in the capital, offering a foretaste of a key campaigning issue for Hall, who pitched for the candidacy using the slogan “Safer with Susan”.
“Crime has been increasing in London,” Hall said, quoting Scotland Yard statistics showing that over a million crimes of all types were recorded by the Metropolitan Police during the 12 months to the end of June.
Khan had his own take on the Met figures, comparing the year to June 2023 with the equivalent pre-pandemic period to show that burglary, robbery, vehicle crime, knife and gun crime and murder rates were all down compared with 2019/20.
And the Mayor highlighted Met Commissioner Mark Rowley’s “New Met for London” plans, announced this week, which include a boost to neighbourhood and town centre policing across the capital, with an additional 1,300 warranted officers patrolling locally and 500 more police community support officers.
While police numbers were now at record levels, Khan added, London’s population was growing too, meaning that the current 3.7 officers per 1,000 residents is below the figure of 4.1 per 1,000 in 2010, the year the Conservative-led coalition government was elected and began cutting police funding. Those have meant “police have one hand tied behind their backs,” he said, adding, with another likely campaigning line, that “it is only because of our economic competence over the last seven years that we can invest in more police officers”.
Khan also leant his weight to growing pleas for government action on homelessness in the capital, calling for the recently announced moratorium on mortgage repossessions to be extended to two years, and repeating his demand for new powers to freeze and regulate private rents.
“The affordability crisis in the private rented sector is already leading to extremely troubling homelessness figures,” he said, backing the campaign to increase local housing allowance (LHA) benefit levels, which currently cover the full rent of fewer than three per cent of properties available in the sector.
“LHA rates are out of touch with the private rental market in 2023, and the bad news is that things are getting worse not better,” he added. “The government must act urgently. They need to step up and help families like they did during the pandemic. There is no reason they can’t do the same.”
With increasing concern that the government’s Rental (Reform) Bill, outlawing so-called “no fault” evictions of private tenants and increasing regulation in a sector which houses 2.7 million Londoners, could miss out on parliamentary time, the Mayor also announced that he was seeking a meeting with communities secretary Michael Gove to impress on him the need for action.
Today’s Mayor’s Question Time can be viewed in full here. Twitter: Twitter: Charles Wright and On London. If you value On London, become a supporter or a paid subscriber to publisher and editor Dave Hill’s Substack. Thanks.