The claim

“If you look at the position in London, obviously we have been able to make significant savings, we’ve been able to move money around, and we are able to expand…expand numbers.”
Boris Johnson, 10 August 2011

The background

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, reopened an old wound on Wednesday when he suggested this might be a bad time for the Government to press ahead with its programme of police cuts.

The Mayor’s political opponents were quick to accuse him of hypocrisy, saying he himself has presided over cuts to the Met Police since he was elected.

Boris Johnson became Mayor of London, replacing Ken Livingstone, in May 2008. He repeatedly promised that there would be more police on the streets by May 2012 than when he took office.

But on Wednesday Labour’s Yvette Cooper said: “He has already cut 900 police officers from the Met in the last year and the Mayor’s own plans mean 1,800 officers are expected to go in total over the next few years.”

The analysis

In May 2008 the Scotland Yard employed 31,398 police officers, according to Metropolitan Police Authority statistics.

Numbers rose to a high of around 33,404 in November 2009, largely as a result of budgeting decisions made by the previous administration.

The number of officers began to fall after that, thanks in part to a recruitment freeze that began in spring 2010.

In February this year Mr Johnson announced an end to the freeze and said £42m of extra funding would be pumped into the Met to boost numbers again.

This will lead to a projected strength of 32,510 officers by the time of next year’s election, according to MPA projections.

If that prediction becomes reality, Mr Johnson will have kept his promise to have more serving officers in the final month of his term of office than in the last month Mr Livingstone was in charge.

But what has riled his opponents is that the focussing on the fluctuation in numbers from one month to the next masks the fact that officer numbers have indeed fallen under Mr Johnson.

MPA figures for the annual totals of serving officers show a fall from 33,260 in the financial year 2009/10 to 32,380 the following year.

That reduction is the figure Ms Cooper is using when she says the Mayor has already cut 900 officers.

Her figure of a reduction of 1,800 officers in total over the next few years also come from MPA budget forecasts, which show a fall to 31,460 by the end of the 2013/14 financial year – exactly 1,800 less than the total for 2009/10.

The verdict

The Mayor has always been very careful to couch his claims over police numbers in a very specific way, saying that by the time his term of office finishes next year officer numbers would be up on the total he inherited.

If he’d stuck to those very guarded terms on Wednesday, Mr Johnson would have been in the clear.

But his use of more loose language, saying “we are able to expand…numbers”, earns him a ‘Fiction’ rating.

It’s clear that Mr Johnson has presided over budgets that have cut Met Police office numbers, and his legacy after 2012 will be one of further cuts.

By Patrick Worrall