It’s never been much of a secret that most of the heavy lifting during Boris’s time as Mayor has been done by others, with him chiefly responsible for posing for pictures and basking in the credit.
His team of advisors and deputies have always been happy with this, recognising that it’s Boris’s personal brand and electoral appeal that gives them the chance to enact their visions for London.
But with Boris now selected for a safe seat in Parliament and policing deputy Stephen Greenhalgh eying up the Mayoralty, it seems cracks are beginning to appear in this previously cosy arrangement.
The London Assembly’s Budget and Performance Committee kicked off its New Year today with a question and answer session with Greenhalgh and Met Deputy Commissioner Craig Mackey on the impact of Boris’s latest budget on the force’s ability to keep fighting crime.
Questioned about the coming challenges and the ability to sustain officer numbers at their current 32,000 level, Greenhalgh launched into a typically robust defence of his record to date.
As is common, that included some heckling of Green party AM Jenny Jones and some sighing when told off by the chair for his conduct.
But what was most noteworthy was Greenhalgh’s repeated rubbishing of his predecessor’s record in responding to cuts of almost £800m in the Met’s funding.
If Greenhalgh had arrived in 2008 with Boris and taken over from a Ken Livingstone appointee this would be trivial stuff, but his predecessor was Boris ally Kit Malthouse who led the metropolitan police authority until its demise in 2012 and oversaw the creation of the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime.
It was generally considered that Malthouse did good job at MOPAC, helping the Met make the transition to direct City Hall oversight with the minimum of bumps and being happy to give Scotland Yard political cover when things got hot.
Yet, according to Greenhalgh, when it comes to managing the force’s finances his record was less impressive.
Responding to a question from Jones, Greenhalgh said:
“I started in 2012, I expected a Rolls Royce plan to deliver the savings we all knew were coming…there wasn’t a plan, was there Craig?”
“We arrived, new team, and I started the midway through 2012, you know because you were at my first hearing, new team in Scotland Yard, no plan to deliver the savings.”
This was no accidental misspeak – as the recording below shows, he subsequently referred to the lack of any plan a further three times.
The truth is a little different.
A report published by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary in July 2012 – just weeks after Greenhalgh took up his post – says the Met had already “developed plans which outlined how it will achieve £537m (70%) of its savings requirement.”
The report also notes that plans were being drawn up to reduce the Met’s property portfolio, a policy Greenhalgh has enjoyed much credit for implementing,
In a statement issued alongside the report, HM Inspector of Constabulary for the National Region, Stephen Otter, said:
“The Metropolitan Police Service is working to address the financial challenge of the 2010 spending review, and has identified considerable savings. However, it needs to find another £232m before it can balance its books – and currently has no plans to outline how this will be achieved.”
So at best Greenhalgh can claim credit for finalising plans to find the remainder of the necessary savings, but that’s a long way from having to do the whole job himself.
Malthouse allies are understandably cross, believing Greenhalgh deliberately trampled over Malthouse’s record to further his own chances at the Mayoralty.
Ever since he declared his interest in running for London’s top job there have been questions about Greenhalgh’s ability to appeal to Liberal Democrat and Green voters whose support is essential to get past the 50.1% mark and win the Mayoralty.
By so publicly rubbishing Malthouse and, by implication Boris, I’m told he makes it less likely he’ll get the chance to disprove the doubters and that it’s more probable his time at City Hall will end in May 2016 when Boris steps down.