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Revealed: Almost £40m paid in overtime to Met constables in two years

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Almost £40m has been paid in overtime to Metropolitan Police constables in the last two years, official figures show.

In 2017 and 2018, Pcs in London worked more than a million hours in overtime, clocking up a total of 1,799,741 extra hours.

Figures released to the Standard under Freedom of Information show how police are being called on to shoulder increasing hours on duty.

London’s mayor Sadiq Khan said the Met had faced £1bn in cuts since 2010. This week he raised council tax to help make up the shortfall in police funding.

In 2017, the Met said 20,140 Pcs were in employment, but this number was reduced down to 19,078 in 2018 – the year London’s murder rate was the highest in a calendar year for nearly a decade.

Police form a line as climate activists demonstrate outside Downing Street on November 14 (Getty Images)

£22,625,288 was paid out in overtime in 2017. In 2018, from January to October, this figure was £16,855,056.

The Met said that the last two years have been an “unprecedented period for policing with a number of terrorist incidents, increases in violence, and other major incidents such as the Grenfell Tower fire”, requiring more officers.

The force said “it is only right officers are paid the correct overtime for their hard work”.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said we are going to continue seeing money spent on overtime because without funding, it will not be possible to invest in more officers that we “significantly need”. 

Mr Khan said officers were currently being “overstretched”. 

Ken Marsh, Chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, said he would like to see more officers in employment, as he claims the money spent on overtime could have “trained thousands” of new officers. 

The Home Office said “there are more officers for each Londoner than anywhere else in the country”. 

Ken Marsh (ITV)

Mr Marsh said: “We are seeing a lot of overtime, and a lot of it is for firearms [trained officers], and this is because it’s cheaper to pay officers overtime than train up new ones.”

He added: “It’s not an eight-hour job and then you go home, you can be told to stay on longer at work. It’s one of the few jobs where you can be told to stay longer. It’s not a day time job, if something happens, officers have to stay, it’s something that is factored in.

“We do need more officers, but how are we going to get them when they are starting out on such a low salary?”

Mr Marsh added working so many extra hours can have a big effect on Pcs, as he said: “having a good work/life balance is a difficult thing for officers to have”.

Police officers stand at a cordon in Queensbury, north-west London (PA Archive/PA Images)

A spokesman for the Home Office said: “This Government has ensured police have the resources they need to carry out their vital work, by providing a strong and comprehensive settlement that is increasing total investment in the police system by up to £970m in 2019/20.

 “There are more officers for each Londoner than anywhere else in the country. The Metropolitan Police will see a total increase in funding of up to £172m next year including pensions funding and precept.

“Decisions about the allocation of police resources and the recruitment of officers are for Chief Constables and democratically accountable Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs).”

Mr Marsh said he would like to see more officers in employment and said he “would like to see the Government bring the number to over 30,000 officers in employment”.

Police cordon off the area around at the scene in London Bridge and Borough Market in London following last year’s terrorists incidents. (PA Archive/PA Images)

Mr Khan said: “The Met are overstretched and officers are being overworked because of the eight years of damaging cuts to police funding by the government.

“The Home Secretary promised to give the Met Police the funding he acknowledged it needs to tackle the rise in violent crime and yet when he had the chance to do so, he failed to reverse the £1 billion of hugely damaging cuts the government has inflicted on the police.

“His police settlement was a one-year sticking plaster which means we are going to continue to see money spent on overtime because without long-term funding we are not going to be able to invest in what we really need, which is significantly more officers on the street to keep Londoners safe.”

A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said the amount spent on overtime must be considered along with how big the force is.

Sadiq Khan speaking with officers (PA Wire/PA Images)

The spokesman said: “The Metropolitan Police Service is the largest police service in the country.

“Overall, Met officers account for around a fifth of all the police officers in the UK – it is important that our overtime spend is viewed in this context.

“The Met is a seven-day-a-week, 24-hour organisation. Overtime provides the flexibility and resilience the Met needs to keep London safe and allocate resources to meet demand.

“Police officers sometimes have to work on rest days, and sometimes at short notice and on bank holidays, and it is only right they are paid the correct overtime for their hard work.

“We are committed to their support and welfare and we continue to have enormous gratitude for the dedication they show day-in and day-out to keep our city safe.

Police officer numbers in London could plummet to the lowest level since 2002 unless funding is urgently increased, Sadiq Khan has said (PA Wire/PA Images)

“2017 and 2018 has been an unprecedented period for policing in London with a number of terrorist incidents, increases in violence, and other major incidents such as the Grenfell Tower fire with ongoing investigations – all of which involved significant overtime expenditure.

“We have also faced additional overtime costs in relation to our restructure of the delivery of policing across London boroughs and as a consequence of falling officer numbers, although we continue to actively recruit.

“Overtime costs and contingency are factored into annual budgets, and do not incur an additional cost which impacts other business areas.”

In 2013, 30,398 police officers were in employment across the entire Metropolitan police force, according to the Office of National Statistics. 

Of these, 23,283 were working as PCs. In May of this year the number of police officers protecting the capital symbolically dropped below the 30,000 mark for the first time.

On Thursday, Sadiq Khan said he would be raising council tax to tackle the “brutal reality” of crime in London.

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