Home Secretary failed to stand up for the police – Ed Balls responds to police funding announcement

Ed Balls, Labour’s shadow home secretary, said in response to the Home Office announcement on police funding cuts today:

“It’s now clear just how hard local police forces will be hit by the Home Office’s spending cuts. It is disingenuous for the Policing Minister to only publish figures in cash terms. An analysis by the House of Commons Library shows that funding for police forces will be cut in real terms by 7.1 per cent next year and the biggest cut of all, 8.5 per cent, in the year of the Olympics.

“People should be in no doubt that these deep cuts will mean thousands fewer police officers. Having totally failed to stand up for policing in the spending review negotiations, the Home Secretary has now ignored all the warnings from the police that imposing the biggest cuts in the first two years will hit the frontline hard.

“Overall police funding cuts of twenty per cent, front-loaded with the largest cuts in the first two years, would be unwise at the best of times. But at a time of rising public protest, an ongoing terror threat, the security challenge of the 2012 Olympics and an expensive reorganisation of policing, these cuts are a reckless and dangerous gamble. They will undermine the fight against crime and take unnecessary risks with national security and the safety of our communities.

“The speed and scale of these cuts go way beyond what independent experts believe can be achieved from efficiencies and better procurement. They will hit urban forces with higher crime rates, which are more reliant on central government funding, hardest.”

On Olympics security Ed Balls added:

“The Home Secretary told me in Parliament that the budget for Olympic security would be protected. And the Home Office told journalists yesterday that there would be no cuts to the Olympics security budget. Those promises are now being broken with the government trying to cut the budget by over twenty per cent from £600m to £475m.

“Police resources will already be over-stretched in 2012, but trying to cut the security budget by 21 per cent and cutting funding to police forces by 8.5 per cent in the year of the Olympics is a risky move. It raises very serious questions about whether the government can both deliver a safe and secure Olympics and normal day to day policing away from the Games. Protecting visiting VIPs, including heads of state and royal families from around the world, and securing not just one site but dozens of Olympic venues across London and around the country cannot be done by cutting corners.”

On elected police commissioners and today’s Second Reading of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill Ed Balls added:

“People will rightly be angry that on the same day as these cuts are being imposed on frontline police the government is pushing through plans for a new set of politicians to oversee the police at a cost of over £100 million or the equivalent of 600 full time officers. And by confirming that the biggest cut of all will be in the year that directly elected police chiefs take office, it’s clear that Ministers want to pass the buck for the cuts to someone else. These cuts are not simply reckless, they’re deeply cynical too, with Ministers hoping to avoid responsibility for them come the next general election.”

ENDS

Notes to Editors

1. Research by the House of Commons Library, commissioned by Ed Balls’ office, showing the real terms reductions can be found here.

2. The Home Secretary and Sports Minister have previously pledged that the Olympics security budget of £600m would be protected:

“..of course the Olympics budget is protected, and a significant part of the Olympics security budget, which is protected within the Home Office, relates to Olympics policing.”
Theresa May responding to Ed Balls, Hansard, 1 November 2010

“Olympic security funding and planning are to be reviewed by the coalition government, but the £600m budget will not be cut, Hugh Robertson, the sports minister, said yesterday… of the overall £9.3bn Olympic budget, some £600m, plus £238m of contingency, is allocated to policing and security needs and is the responsibility of the Home Office. Mr Robertson said the security budget would be part of Baroness Neville-Jones’s review, but a cut in that budget was “absolutely not” on the agenda.”
Financial Times, 27 May 2010

3. Senior Conservative, Lib Dem, Labour and independent members of the Association of Police Authorities wrote to the Policing Minister Nick Herbert earlier this month urging him to re-consider the front-loaded phasing of the cuts in order to “avoid long-term damage to policing capability”. The letter warns that the current cuts timetable will mean also fewer police community support officers and could affect the “safe and secure delivery of the Olympics” in 2012.

4. The Police Federation has estimated that around 20,000 police officers would be lost by the end of the Spending Review, while accountants KPMG have estimated a figure of 18,000 officers.

5. A number of forces have already announced plans to lose thousands of police officers – including Greater Manchester (1387 police officers and 1557 staff), West Midlands (1100 police officers, 1100 staff) and North Wales (230 police officers, 210 staff).

6. Almost every police force in England and Wales has frozen recruitment, according to a survey by Labour’s shadow home affairs team. Since around 6,000 police officers retire or resign each year, recruitment freezes will see a substantial reduction in police officer numbers.

7. A number of forces are also considering using a legal loophole (section A19 of the Police Pensions Regulations) that will allow them to forcibly retire police officers with thirty years or more service. 3,260 officers fall into this category so this drastic measure would mean losing some of our most experienced officers.

8. The Association of Police Authorities has estimated that the introduction of directly elected police and crime commissioners will cost around £100million, the equivalent of 600 full time police officers.

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Posted December 13th, 2010 by Ed's team

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