Boris Johnson has made a point of opposing police cuts, publicly urging David Cameron to scrap the cuts in the aftermath of the riots last summer.
Indeed, policing is set to be an area on which he will fight this year’s mayoral election. A press release from his team just this week says that Johnson has “overseen a massive increase in police on London’s streets since becoming Mayor”.
But is it actually the case that Johnson has presided over a big boost to the Met? Labour Matters thinks otherwise. According to their analysis, Johnson’s re-election website, BackBoris2012.com is over-claiming the number of police currently operating in London. Johnson’s website says that there are 722 more officers than official Metropolitan Police figures show.
According to Labour Matters, BackBoris2012 over-claims for 28 of the 32 London boroughs. The biggest discrepancies are in Westminster (the site claims there are 110 more police officers than there actually are), Southwark (inflated by 80) and Lambeth (51).
In nine boroughs — including Brent, Camden, Croydon and Tower Hamlets — where official figures show that the number of police officers fell between 2008 and 2011, the relection website claims that numbers rose.
For long-time critics of the Mayor, this is unsurprising. London blogger Adam Bienkov tells me:
Boris was elected on a ticket of cutting knife crime and getting to grips with the Metropolitan Police. His record on both has been pretty shaky so it’s not surprising if his campaign are now trying to bend the figures in his favour.
I spoke to BackBoris2012 this afternoon. A spokesman for the re-election campaign questioned the source of Labour Matters’ figures, and said:
The figures [on the re-election website], showing a rise in police officers under Mayor Boris Johnson helping lead to a fall in crime across London, are official Metropolitan Police figures for the latest available full financial year.
In line with standard practice, this year to year comparison provides the most reliable figures for an organisation the size of the Met Police whose staffing levels fluctuate on a daily basis.
But whatever the comparison — be it a logical year to year comparison or a randomly, cherry-picked comparison — there is no disputing the fact that police numbers across London have increased under Mayor Boris Johnson and that crime is down by 10 per cent.
As standard practice we will be updating these figures at the end of this financial year, which is March 2012.
There is that assertion again: police numbers have increased under Johnson. But this fact has been disputed. Indeed, it has been disputed using these very terms — of daily fluctuating numbers. Following the Mayor’s intervention on police cuts in August, Channel 4’s FactCheck blog concluded:
The Mayor has always been very careful to couch his claims over police numbers in a very specific way, saying that by the time his term of office finishes next year officer numbers would be up on the total he inherited.
. . .
It’s clear that Mr Johnson has presided over budgets that have cut Met Police office numbers, and his legacy after 2012 will be one of further cuts.
It appears that claims that Johnson has hugely boosted police numbers may be disingenous.