London Mayor Boris Johnson has been accused of “political bias” in the implementation of cuts to London’s fire services by Labour London Assembly members.
In a rowdy exchange this afternoon, Barnet member Andrew Dismore questioned Johnson on how much the mayoralty would save in reducing the number of fire engines as a result of the Mayor’s budget for the next few years.
Johnson repeatedly told Dismore and fellow members of the Assembly’s Budget and Performance Committee that City Hall would save £30m as a result of the plans, involving the closure of 12 fire stations and the loss of 18 fire engines. He batted away further attempts to determine the precise savings in cutting the number of engines, insisting: “I won’t take repeated ignoratio elenchi from you! I’ve given you the answer! Put that in your pipe and smoke it!”
Johnson later told Dismore that as a member of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority, he could “go and find out about it” himself. However committee chair Labour’s John Biggs AM chided Johnson for his evasiveness, saying the Mayor should know the answer: “It’s your budget, you have your fingerprints on it. You own it.”
Dismore claimed that Johnson’s cuts to the fire service hit Labour areas of London the hardest and showed “political bias”.
As Labour members grew increasingly testy over Johnson’s failure to answer, Green assembly member Jenny Jones was heard complaining that it was “outrageous!”
Meanwhile, Jones accused the Mayor of making an “amateurish mistake” in a “fixation” on keeping police numbers around 32,000 over the course of his administration.
“How can Boris make these huge cuts when he can’t tell us what the savings will be? Astonishing ignorance,” she later wrote on Twitter.
Biggs echoed her attacks in mocking Johnson’s “fetish with numbers”. Johnson refused to confirm who advised him of the target, quipping that “I get advice on these things from reputable people… and some disreputable people I’m sure!”
“It is inevitable there will be people who try to make political capital out of what is a necessary series of reforms”, the Mayor said. He told assembly members that both sets of proposals had been drawn up by officers who felt “confident” they could continue to ensure the safety of Londoners.
At the beginning of the session, Johnson pre-empted criticism in his insistence that while “substantial economies” will be made to police and fire services, “the outcomes will continue to be the right ones for London”.