Recent ONS crime data statistics are an indictment of this Conservative Government’s policies when it comes to keeping our communities safe and secure, showing that police recorded crime is up 14%, the highest annual rise since 1992, with knife crime up by 21% and gun crime by 20%.
Since 2010 the Tories have broken their pledge to protect police funding, and these recent figures should have put an end to Government complacency on crime.
Instead, the Tories have voted through further real-terms cuts, meaning that the pressure on our police force is about to increase.
Whilst the Police Grant for 2018/19 promised “up to £450m” for the police, Labour revealed that Home Office funding for local forces will be slashed by at least £100m.
There is no extra cash at all, and with inflation this means there is a cut in real terms.
Furthermore, rather than properly fund the police, the government has chosen to heap the burden onto local taxpayers by raising the precept. This means that it is communities in the most need, suffering from the largest cuts, who will get the least.
There should be no winners and losers when it comes to public safety. For many forces, particularly with a low Council Tax base, the amount raised by the precept will be effectively wiped out by the real-terms reduction in Home Office funding and broader inflationary pressures.
The decision to press ahead with these policies in terms of police funding is also an extraordinary decision in light of recent reports from Chief Constables that they are forced to downgrade certain crimes because they are so over-stretched.
A growing number of services say they are at 'tipping point' and will not be able to deliver a professional service if cuts continue, and there is a litany of police and crime commissioners and chief constables who have expressed their deep concerns over the impact of continued cuts to police budgets and police force strength.
To give some examples, London “will struggle to cope with terrorism or disorder”. Northumbria is “getting very, very close to not being able to deliver a professional service.” Avon and Somerset is “at a tipping point”.
More generally, cuts also mean police will increasingly struggle to cope with terrorism.
Despite combatting a counter-terror threat senior officers have described as “stratospheric”, counter-terror police have warned this year’s settlement will mean “tough choices” as Ministers provided just half of the funding counter-terror chiefs requested to meet the demand.
It is becoming clearer by the week therefore that the Tories have failed to learn that cuts have consequences and you can’t fight crime on the cheap.
The truth is that Police budgets have been cut by £2.7bn in real terms since 2010 and the Government. They have now cut over 21,000 police officers, leaving forces across the country under-staffed and over-stretched, with police numbers now at their lowest in 30 years. Around 17,000 of those represent cuts to frontline staff.
This government holds the dubious honour of being the only Government since records began in which police numbers have fallen every year they have been in office.
We need to be clear that cuts do have consequences, even if the government remains in denial.
In contrast to the Tories, Labour in government will give forces the resources they need. We will restore 10,000 police officers, 1,000 more security and intelligence staff and 500 more border guards.
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