Police Minister’s claim that “there is no such link” between police numbers and crime levels is “astonishing”, says Vernon Coaker

Vernon Coaker, shadow policing minister, said in response to the Policing Minister Nick Herbert’s claim that “there is no such link” between police numbers and crime levels:

“It’s astonishing to hear a Conservative Policing Minister claim that there is no link at all between police officer numbers and the level of crime.

“The coalition government is finding it increasingly difficult to justify to people why policing is such a low priority for them. Cutting police funding by twenty per cent will mean fewer police officers and PCSOs and undermine the fight against crime and anti-social behaviour in all our communities.

“Of course the level of crime is affected by lots of things, but is it absurd to pretend that the number of police officers doesn’t make a significant difference in preventing and tackling crime. It is no coincidence that under Labour police numbers rose and crime fell, even during a recession.”


Notes to Editors

1. A transcript of Nick Herbert’s interview on The World This Weekend today can be found below.

2. Labour today published new research showing that all but one police force in England and Wales had closed its door to new recruits and that around 6,000 police officers retire or resign each year.

BBC Radio 4 – The World This Weekend
Sunday, 21 November 2010

Speakers: Shaun Ley, Nick Herbert

SL: One area he [Ed Balls] doesn’t agree with you on still is police numbers. He’s queried your claim that only 11% of police officers are visible and available to the general public at any one time. He makes the point for example that there’s inevitably going to be some officers who are off shift, maybe off sick, on holiday and that therefore that figure is somewhat misleading?

NH: Well I’m very surprised indeed that Ed Balls should be challenging this figure because it’s not mine, it was produced by the Independent Inspectorate of Constabulary and I think it’s important because what it showed is that in spite of a very rapid increase in the numbers of police officers only a small proportion of them are visible and available to the public at any one time and I think that’s partly because of the huge growth in bureaucracy that we saw under the last government. We’ve got to change that and so it’s not just about the overall numbers of police officers, it’s about what they’re doing.

SL: But that report as well as acknowledging this 11% figure you mentioned, also said that while a redesign of the system which presumably means dealing with this bureaucracy has the potential as you put it at best to save about 12%. A cut beyond 12% would almost certainly reduce police availability further?

NH: Well firstly it is important to notice that that report said that savings of 12% were possible. That’s over £1 billion a year through making efficiencies in the middle office and in the back office in support functions.

SL: Sure but you’re talking about 20% over four years aren’t you?

NH: Well we’re talking about a reduction in 20% over four years in real terms of government grant but police forces don’t just raise their money from government. They also raise money from local council tax payers through the precept and actually when you take that into account the reduction on average is only 14% in real terms and then there are the savings that we believe that can be made that weren’t taken into account by the Inspectorate report which include hundreds of millions of pounds a year by better procurement and also then savings that will be made through things like the two year pay freeze which we expect will apply to the police as it will for the rest of the public sector.

SL: We started this interview talking about Labour changing its mind. Haven’t the Conservatives as well on this issue, I mean I was looking back at the Conservative manifesto in 2001 at which the party said “police numbers had fallen and violent crime is on the rise, it’s time for common sense. Conservatives will trust the instincts of the mainstream majority on law and order and that means more police”?

NH: Well Sean that was a decade ago…

SL: Yes but it’s about philosophy isn’t it. It’s about the philosophy that the party believes in and many Conservatives would still believe that more police officers means less crime?

NH: Actually we’ve had this huge increase in police officers over the last few years and yet the visibility and availability is relatively low and that should tell us something. It should tell us that actually what matters is what police officers are doing, how efficiently they are being used.

SL: Crime has fallen. You don’t think the two things are connected?

NH: No I don’t think that anyone and no respectable academic would make a simple link between the increase in the numbers of police officers and what has happened to crime. There is no such link.

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Posted November 21st, 2010 by Ed's team

One Response to “Police Minister’s claim that “there is no such link” between police numbers and crime levels is “astonishing”, says Vernon Coaker”

  1. Mary Nash says:

    This reckless Coalition Govt continues to insult our intelligence, this time trying to hoodwink us that the fall in Crime Rate by45% this year has nothing to do with police numbers. Savage cuts in police numbers is false economy. We are already feeling scared what Britain will look like by 2015 and beyond. The country desperately needs a strong Opposition party, a credible Alternative Govt , urgently. We need a Labour govt sooner rather than later.

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