This week Labour is launching a national campaign to protect our police force.
The most important duty of any Government is to keep people safe, and to do that we need police officers who can protect people in the community and who have the resources they need to fight crime.
But since David Cameron entered Downing Street we have lost 17,000 police officers, including nearly 700 in our own Northumbria Police.
Now the Government is planning to slash police funding once again, with reports saying this month’s Comprehensive Spending Review could demand cuts of between 25 and 40%, meaning over 20,000 more officers may be lost.
Cuts on this scale would undoubtedly put public safety at risk, and drastically reduce the kind of service the police are able to provide. Lord John Stevens, who as Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police was the most senior police officer in the country, has warned that these cuts could mean “the end of neighbourhood policing”, and serving Chief Constables are warning that the service could become unrecognisable.
Now is not the time to be cutting the police. Crime is not falling – crime is changing, with violent crime up by 16% in the last year, sexual offences up 41% and cybercrime growing year on year. Our police also have to constantly work in the fight against organised crime and be on the alert to protect our country from terrorist threats. The police’s job is getting harder, not easier, and it is reckless of the Government to expect them to do that job while slashing the budget by more than a quarter.
We are already seeing the impact of cuts – incident response times are up, and some forces are considering scaling back their operations so that the police become a “blue light” service that responds to emergencies only.
The police are coping – barely – but even bigger cuts in store under this Government we are entering unchartered territory.
I know that savings have to be made to help make our public finances secure, and the police should do their bit too. Police officers recognise this, and they are already looking at ways to save money while keeping the public safe.
Labour believes that £172 million could be saved just by improving police procurement, and that more collaboration between forces could deliver savings of up to 10% without putting public safety in danger.
What we cannot support is cuts to frontline policing that will take officers off our streets and put public safety at risk. That’s why Labour has launched a national campaign this week demanding that the Tories protect our police force, and that the Government drop their plans to cut neighbourhood policing out of existence.
l Lord Stevens has also started an online petition calling on the Government to think again. If you want to protect our police, join me in signing the petition by visiting https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/111560.