Merton police were “completely unprepared and outnumbered” for Monday’s lootings in Colliers Wood, Siobhain McDonagh has claimed.
The Mitcham and Morden MP said the Government needed to reverse its decision to cuts police numbers as Merton Police faces its own budget being cuts by between 25 and 30 per cent by 2014.
Ms McDonagh (Labour) said: “I think, on Monday, police just didn’t understand how frightened people were. The police’s tactics may have been right given the numbers but it seemed to be they were prepared to let the looting go ahead.
“Merton police certainly put in the hours and were very brave, but it’s also clear they were completely unprepared for it and outnumbered because many officers had been sent to Croydon.”
“This puts pay to the government’s desire to reduce the number of officers, particularly in London, and I think we need to learn how to better adapt to a quickly-changing environment.”
On Tuesday, shops closed early in Wimbledon town centre, Mitcham and a massive police presence was deployed to the town centres, some of whom had their holidays cancelled.
Merton Council said there have been 13 arrests in the borough since disturbances began on Monday, but Merton Police has not confirmed this number and has not said how many of these people have been charged and will appear in court.
Merton Police faces budget squeeze
In January, Merton’s Borough Commander, Chief Superintendent Dick Wolfenden, outlined the sheer scale of cuts facing his force, which are axeing five sergeant roles from safer neighbourhood teams as part of a London-wide reorganisation.
In January, Chief Supt Wolfenden said at Merton Council: “The future doesn’t look great. We’ve got to find between four and five per cent in the next financial year.
"By 2014 I’ll be operating with 25 to 30 per cent less than I had eight months ago.
“If that was in the private sector, if someone asked you to run your business with 30 per cent less cash, most people would find that very difficult.
“My life, right now, is all about spinning plates and trying to keep the shop open.
"It’s been incredibly difficult and I’m fighting battles on all sorts of different fronts.”
But, he insisted, none of the cuts he had already made would lead to a reduction in frontline police numbers.
Savings have instead been made by shedding the force’s police cars, tightening allowances for overtime and petrol consumption, and even providing staff with fewer uniforms.
Stephen Hammond: Budget cuts should not impact on front-line policing
But Wimbledon’s MP, Stephen Hammond, yesterday said the coalition Government’s cuts to police were targeted at making efficiencies that would not impact on front-line policing.
Mr Hammond (Conservative) said: “We have an awful lot of police but under the last government they were tied with not putting enough on the front line. We need more police on the front line.
“There will be 1,000 more police at the end of Boris Johnson’s mayoralty than at the end of Ken Livingstone.”
When asked about Merton Police having to make 30 per cent budget cuts he replied: “The Borough Commander will know that certain elements of that budget are ring fenced and he needs to make sure the cuts are not going on front line policing.”
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