Crime and policing are likely to be the dominant theme of the 2008 Mayoral elections after the candidates spend yesterday trading policies and insults.
Mayor of London Ken Livingstone gave his budget speech in which he said he’d “been able to hold the precept increase below the rate of inflation while still funding an additional 1,000 police officers in the coming year.”
However Liberal Democrat candidate Brian Paddick branded the Mayor’s figures “lies, damn lies and statistic” adding that “at every turn Londoners are being conned” the Mayor.
Mr Paddick claimed that “most of these new ‘officers’ are in fact PCSOs. When it comes to tackling gun and knife crime, many of them are as much use as an ashtray on a motorbike.”
Paddick also highlighted his own policy of “getting police out of cars and back on the beat.”
There was criticism also from Damian Hockney, Leader of the One London Party and Mayoral candidate who said “I want Londoners to remember that this increase will mean that, over eight years he has raised Londoners’ bills from £123 in 2000 to £311 in 2008, a whopping 153% rise.”
Hockney also warned that “past performance indicates that a small rise pre-election will be followed by another swingeing tax grab after the election” if Mr Livingstone were re-elected in May.”
“My election manifesto will outline plans to halve the GLA council tax in the next Mayoral term. One London is the only party pledging a significant reduction in the tax burden on Londoners.”
However the Mayor brushed aside criticisms of his plan saying they came from those who “year after year voted against my budgets which have delivered 10,000 more uniformed officers, the largest police force we have ever seen, which has led to five years of falling crime.”
There was criticism also of Boris Johnson’s crime policies which he announced yesterday. Joined by Shadow Home Secretary David Davies Johnson said he rejected “the fatalism and defeatism of the Labour Mayor. I reject the assumption that we can do nothing.”
Mr Johnson’s polcies include promises to “double the strength of the Safer Transport Teams with another 440 PCSOs” and a suggestion that “Revenue Protection Inspectors to be able to require the name and address of a person acting in an anti-social manner.”
Highlighting the dangers of knife and gun crime Johnson said he wanted to “release £2.6 million from the MPA’s general reserve to fund hand-held scanners or new knife archways at transport hubs and we can thereby hinder the mobility of those who carry knives and guns. ”
However his policies came under immediate attack from Labour and the Liberal Democrats.
A spokesman for the Livingstone campaign said: “Tory cuts in police numbers in the 1990s unleashed a crime wave in London which the Mayor’s increase in police officers and PCSOs by 10,000 first stopped in its tracks and then reversed.”
“Crime has now fallen for five years in a row, with murder for example down 28 per cent, while the Tories voted against every budget which increased police numbers and for Boris Johnson and the Tories to now present themselves as in favour of increased police number is therefore breathtaking hypocrisy.”
Brian Paddick claimed the policies showed Mr Johnson was “clueless about crime.”
“The Mayor has no control over the budget of the British Transport Police – yet again Boris Johnson is showing he is clueless on crime and how policing works.”
Commenting on Johnson’s promise to introduce ‘New York style policing’ Mr Paddick claimed London “already has New York style sessions with its borough commanders – I used to chair them when I was in the Met.”