It’s difficult for candidates to break their manifesto pledges before the actual election, but Boris Johnson’s apparent pledge to make London safer with “1,000 more police on the beat” manages that feat.
In 2008 Johnson inherited a budget from Ken Livingstone that took police numbers to a record level. Since 2010 Boris Johnson has cut police numbers severely.
But Ken’s uplift in police numbers outweighed Boris’s cuts, allowing the Tory Mayor to swing the axe at the Met whilst also claiming to have increased officer numbers.
Now, Boris Johnson is not pledging 1,000 extra officers; he is just talking about something that has already happened – he is spinning a cut to the police force into looking like a pledge to strengthen it.
But don’t just take my word for it. This is what Channel 4 Fact Checker has to say on the issue.
“We think the casual reader might take this promise to mean that there will be 1,000 more police on the beat than there are now if Boris gets a second term.
But Boris isn’t talking about the future here, he’s simply flagging up something that’s already been done, and the details of that are fiercely disputed.
Boris has always said there will be 1,000 more Met Police officers at the end of this financial year than there were when he came to office in May 2008.
The figure then was 31,398, but it was on the rise, largely thanks to the last budget set by Ken Livingstone. Officer strength rose to a high of around 33,404 in November 2009, then the numbers began to fall.
Annual stats show a fall from an average of 33,260 officers in the financial year 2009/10 to 32,380 the following year, when Boris was in charge of the budgets.
The latest figures put officer strength at just over 31,128 as of the end of January this year, meaning police strength has fallen from its highest point by more than 2,200 officers on Boris’s watch.
He’s now relying on a dramatic last-minute recruitment drive, thanks in part to a one-off grant of £90m from central government, to get the number up to the predicted strength of 32,320.
But even if he hits that target, Boris will be just short of fulfilling the “1,000 more police” promise. And Police Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe said last month that recruitment would be “within probably about 100″ of 32,320 by the end of this month, so Boris could actually find himself missing his target by some margin.
More importantly, it appeared until today that the assumption everyone has been working towards is that numbers are in fact predicted to fall from 32,320 at the end of this financial year to 31,957 for the next three years.
Those were the latest budgeting predictions given to us by none other than the press team at the Mayor of London’s office at City Hall.
So even if we made that rather dubious comparison with May 2008, there wouldn’t be “1,000 more police on the beat” for most of the Mayor’s next term – there would be 559. The figures also show that there will be fewer PCSOs and police staff than in 2008, assuming recruitment targets are met.
This seems to be what Mr Hogan-Howe expects to happen too (here, p 17).
But Boris’s campaign team insists that there will be 1,000 more officers on the beat by the end of this year than there were in May 2008, and that number will be maintained over the next four years.
We’re happy to put that on the record and note that if officer numbers now drop below 32,398 at any point between the end of this month and 2015, Boris will have broken this promise.”