Boris Johnson has criticised government cuts to the police budget despite himself presiding over a cut in the number of Metropolitan Police officers.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4, the Mayor said: “If you ask me whether I think there is a case for cutting police budgets in the light of these event, then my answer to that would be no. I think that case was always pretty frail, and it has been substantially weakened,” he said.
It was unclear whether the Mayor’s intervention had been pre-agreed with Downing Street as recent reports suggest earlier attacks on Government policy have been.
The Mayor’s comments come just hours after the victims of looting and disorder heckled him during a walkabout in Clapham Junction.
As Mayor Johnson sets the Greater London Authority’s share of council tax which he can use to fund any of the GLA group functional bodies including providing extra funds to the Met.
Since coming to office the Mayor has pursued a policy of freezing his share.
Metropolitan Police Authority figures show that in the 2010/11 financial year the number of officers is set to fall from 33,260 to 32,459 with further falls in the number of civilian staff and PCSOs.
Police and police staff numbers for 2010/2011
Police Officers: 32,459 (2009/10 33,260)
Police Staff: 14060 (2009/10 14,413)
PCSO 3,963 (2009/10 4,607)
The Mayor is also reducing the number of sergeants in the Safer Neighbourhood Teams by up to half.
The Mayor has previously told the London Assembly that “this reduction will have no discernable impact on the delivery of the safer neighbourhood policing.”
Despite repeatedly seeking to portray himself as the “de facto” head of the Met, the Mayor today appeared to criticise the force’s response to looting, commenting: “When you look at what happened on Saturday night, and when you look at all the succeeding events, you have got to ask yourself ‘could the police have gone in harder, could there have been a more significant display of intolerance by us, by society, by the police of what was going on?’”
Johnson’s attempt to make capital out of the number of police officers on the streets is a shift in rhetoric from a Mayor who has previously insisted “it is important to focus, not just on the total number of officers, but also on how effective they are.”
Len Duvall, leader of the London Assembly Labour group and a former chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority, said: “One of Boris Johnson’s first acts as mayor was to announce cuts of hundreds of police officers in London. And during the three years he’s been in charge numbers have fallen by over 1,000.
“This is pure political opportunism and hypocrisy from someone whose response to this crisis has been woeful”
Caroline Pidgeon, Leader of the Liberal Democrat London Assembly Group and member of the MPA, said: “There are real savings that could be made in the Met’s budget, from cutting chauffeur driven cars for senior police officers through to slashing the huge number of press officers.
“If delivered those savings could play an important role in maintaining police officers.”