As the Government announced its gangs strategy, London MP and Shadow Home Affairs Minister Stella Creasy questioned whether Boris Johnson was up to leading for London on tackling knife crime.
“Time and time again, Boris doesn’t seem to be able to get his facts right on this critical issue. He said when he was elected that he would never accept “defeat“ in the fight against knife crime – but three years on we can see it has risen every year of his term in office, with nearly 7,500 young victims this year alone. Boris keeps bungling the evidence of knife crime and youth offending, meaning Londoners are asking if we can have confidence in his ability to lead action in this area.”
“Today’s gang announcement shows exactly why we need a Mayor who isn’t confused but who can confront Theresa May. Gangs and kinves are making the lives of many a misery in the capital but the Government is cutting the services needed to keep London safe. Many boroughs are seeing cuts of 30% or more in their youth offending teams, 20% in their community safety budgets, youth services slashed and we’re losing 1,000 police officers from our streets. If Boris was serious about tackling knife crime he’d stop fluffing the figures, and start fighting for the needs of our city.”
- In his mayoral manifesto in 2008 Boris claimed “I will never accept defeat, and I believe that by using all the powers available to the Mayor and taking a fresh approach, we can tackle knife and gun crime in London”.
- Since Boris became mayor the numbers of victims of knife crime under the age of 24 have risen by nearly a third as more and more young people are carrying knifes and being threatened with knives around the capital.
- The Mayor of London is also failing to tackle youth offending and trying to spin his way out ofhis pledge to do so. Boris Johnson was recently reprimanded by the UK Statistics Authority for telling the Home Affairs Select Committee that re-offending rates among those leaving his flagship Heron project for first-time offenders at Feltham had been cut from 80% to just 19%. In fact he had to admit to BBC London that the figure was 40% with some analysis suggesting it could be 50%.
- Boris also tried to mislead members of the GLA about knife crime in Waltham Forest, telling them: “Operation Connect, which is directly targeted at the gangs, has been working well in Waltham Forest and knife crime there has come down by 13%” in July 2011. However, the Met actually report a small rise in knife crime during Operation Connect’s lifetime in Waltham Forest (Met Police Authority Territorial Policing Thematic Performance Report 13 October 2011)
- Nationally, Youth Offending Teams have seen 16% cuts to staffing in 2011, and cuts of 60% to non-statutory functions (primarily gang and prevention functions). London Councils report youth offending teams experiencing an 23% average cut in London, with some boroughs facing decreases of over 30%. The average reduction across England equates to approximately 21%.
- The Home Secretary has cut the grant given to local authorities for community safety by 20% this year and a further 40% in 2012-13. It is being abolished in 2014 with no alternative funding. This grant also covers work including domestic violence and substance misuse projects
- According to the union Unison, Norfolk, Suffolk, Buckinghamshire and Manchester part of a “growing number of local authorities planning to get rid of the youth service altogether”. Birmingham is likely to reduce youth services by 50% over the next three years; Haringey and Hull local authorities have cut 75% of their youth services; Warwickshire is facing an 80% cut; the prime minister’s Witney constituency, in Oxfordshire, has closed 20 out of 27 youth centres – there is not a youth service in the country that remains untouched
- Offences committed by young people dropped by 34% in the last Parliament
- The number of first time young offenders fell by 43.6% in the last Parliament
- Labour established Youth Offending Teams and the Youth Justice Board – the former is being cut by the Government and the latter is being abolished