The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson is clearly a literate man as his weekly Daily Telegraph column and array of books can testify. However, l am not sure about his numeracy skills given his recent ‘adjustment’ of the figures for the number of Metropolitan police officers.
The latest debacle from Boris has come in the form of misleading police numbers. Having had his Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime, Stephen Greenhalgh, travel to every borough to sell his draft Police and Crime Plan at consultation meetings, it has transpired that the police figures the Mayor and his office were using were not the actual figures but been “adjusted”. This has called into question the accuracy of the information given to residents on the number of police officers that work and are forecast to work within their borough.
Boris and his team either know that these figures are wrong and are deliberately misleading the public, or they are not capable of understanding the police force they are in charge of. Both are equally worrying. If these figures are incorrect then the Mayor’s entire consultation with Londoners is fundamentally flawed.
It is vitally important that the information given to people is absolutely watertight and there is no confusion. It looks like the Mayor is not comparing like with like, and is making a cut in police officers for over half of London’s boroughs look like an increase.
Transparency is vital to building public trust which Boris will need if his plan to close 65 police stations and front counters comes to fruition. If the Mayor cannot explain where his figures have come from then what confidence can we, or Londoners, have about his future plans?
In search of clarification, the Labour Group has referred the matter to the UK Statistics Authority for their opinion as to whether the figures currently used by the Mayor for his London-wide consultation are accurate. Currently, police officer numbers are publically available on the Mayor’s own London Datastore. This is what we were referred to when we approached the Mayor for information on police numbers. Yet, these are not the figures being used by the Mayor.
In the meantime, Boris continues to pontificate to the public from his main source of income, his £250,000 a-year column in the Daily Telegraph, which he describes as “chicken feed”. Most recently he has been preaching about the injustices of the Government’s mansion tax proposals whilst making a grab for stamp duty in London to fund further housing developments in Greater London. All this when he could be doing a lot more with the money and power he already has.
For all of Boris’s talk about tightening our belt buckles in this time of austerity, he has blown London’s reserves. He balances the budget for the Greater London Authority by using money to cover running costs that was left to pay off debt. Indeed, the GLA has reserves of £244 million over the next three years, so the majority his proposed cuts would be passed on to the next Mayor of London. Boris is planning on spending the reserves which will leave his successor with a massive funding gap. But by that point, Boris will be making moves to be a tenant in Number 10 Downing Street.
On the basis of what l have seen recently, Boris needs to get back to school and focus on his math’s skills. Clearly an education at Eton is not all it cracked up to be.
This blog was published in Tribune edition of the 22nd of February – 7th of March 2013.