Boris Johnson has accused media outlets of “quoting out of context” comments he made over Government plans to limit the amount of Housing Benefit any household can receive.
Housing professionals and London’s councils have warned that proposals to reduce benefit levels could force tens of thousands of families out of their homes.
Speaking on BBC London this morning the Mayor said he “will not accept Kosovo-style social cleansing in London” and said he would resist any effort which meant “the rich and poor cannot live together.”
The comments led to criticism from Prime Minister David Cameron and government ministers.
Mr Cameron’s spokesman said the PM did not agree “with what Boris Johnson has said or indeed the way he said it” while Business Secretary Vince Cable said the Mayor had used “inflammatory language that would help no-one”.
After the criticisms of his comments emerged the Mayor issued a statement in which he claimed “some news outlets are quoting out of context comments I made on BBC London radio this morning about the government’s housing benefit reforms.”
The statement continues: “My consistent position has been that the government is absolutely right to reform the housing benefit system which has become completely unsustainable. I do not agree with the wild accusations from defenders of the current system that reform will lead to social cleansing.
“It will not, and if you listened carefully to what I said, no such exodus will take place on my watch. But the point I was making this morning is that London has specific needs due to the exceptional way in which the housing market works in the capital and it is my job as Mayor to make the Government aware of these.
“From the very good discussions I have been having with the Department of Work and Pensions and Iain Duncan Smith I am confident that our arguments are being listened to carefully and we are continuing to negotiate a package of measures to ensure the changes are introduced in London with minimal problems.”
Johnson’s statement has led to Labour’s 2012 Mayoral hopeful Ken Livingstone of accusing the Mayor of “chaos” in his approach to Government’s proposals.
Livingstone said his successor had performed a “u-turn” under pressure from party colleagues in government which “demonstrates his complete inability to put the interests of Londoners first before the interests of the Conservative Party and his own self interest.”
Shortly after taking office Johnson used an interview with BBC Radio 4′s Today programme to cast “doubt” on the existence of a memorandum of understanding over the costs for the Olympic games.
Despite Johnson’s comments the agreement, which reached by Livingstone and members of the previous government, had long been available on the Department for Culture, Media and Sport website.
WATCH THE MAYOR’S INTERVIEW WITH BBC LONDON