Theresa May yesterday accused police of ‘crying wolf’ about the impact of cuts – and warned officers to brace themselves for a fresh spending squeeze.
The Home Secretary rebuked the Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers, for ‘scaremongering’ by claiming budget reductions endangered the public.
She used a keynote speech to insist there was ‘no ducking’ the fact that forces must make further savings despite already cutting spending by 20 per cent since 2011.
Home Secretary Theresa May, addressing the annual Police Federation conference in Bournemouth today, hit out at rank and file officers ‘crying wolf’ over spending cuts
Mrs May told the Police Federation, which represents ordinary officers, that there was ‘no ducking’ the fact that spending would have to be slashed again
Mrs May’s broadside came after the federation’s chairman warned that new cuts were a threat to front-line policing and could lead to the ‘collapse’ of the police service.
In an attack on the Government, Steve White said police forces were ‘stretched to the limit’ and that bobbies on the beat could vanish, with Britain forced to adopt a paramilitary style of policing.
Labour has claimed another 30,000 officers could be lost under Tory plans, on top of the 17,000 already cut since 2010.
But Mrs May said the police ‘union’ had been issuing doom-laden warnings that cuts were leaving constabularies in crisis for more than a decade.
Police Federation chairman Steve White (left) launched a blistering attack on Theresa May’s record as Home Secretary
The Home Secretarty dismissed claims the public should be ‘scared’ of further cuts to police budgets
She reminded the federation that it had warned that Labour’s reforms under David Blunkett would ‘destroy the police forever’ and that it claimed that bobbies were ‘demoralised’ in 2002, 2003, 2007 and 2012.
‘This kind of scaremongering does nobody any good – it doesn’t serve you, it doesn’t serve the officers you represent, and it doesn’t serve the public,’ she said.
‘The truth is that crime fell in each of those years and our country is safer than it has ever been. So please – for your own sake and for the thousands of police officers who work so hard every day – this crying wolf has to stop.’
Mrs May also confirmed for the first time since the Conservatives’ election victory that police are facing further financial squeezes as part of plans to get the economy back on track.
A CRACK DOWN ON TARGETS
The Home Secretary has vowed to end ‘perverse’ police targets that resulted in officers ignoring the sexual abuse of hundreds of young girls because they were too busy chasing bonuses.
She launched an inquiry into the failure of forces to stamp out a ‘box-ticking’ culture where police are diverted from serious crimes such as rape and sexual violence.
The Mail has reported how police chiefs shifted money from protecting children from sex gangs to pursue crimes such as car theft and burglary to satisfy a target culture linked to performance-related pay for top officers.
Mrs May has scrapped Home Office targets – except to cut crime – but said yesterday some forces had reinstated them at local level.
She added she was determined to ‘root out’ target culture.
Speaking at the federation’s annual conference in Bournemouth yesterday – a year after she tore into a stunned audience of police – she accepted that finding hundreds of millions of pounds of savings would be ‘challenging and difficult’.
But she said: ‘There is no ducking the fact that police spending will have to come down again. The deficit remains too high and more savings will need to be made.
‘I know there are those who say there is no more waste to cut. But I simply do not accept that. It is perfectly possible to make savings without affecting the quality of neighbourhood policing. To say there are no more savings to be found is simply not true.’
Stressing the need to protect frontline services, she added: ‘The last five years have shown that it is possible to do more with less.’
Despite around £2.1million being axed from police budgets since 2010, when the Tory-led Coalition took power, crime has fallen by a quarter.
According to the Crime Survey for England and Wales, burglary has plummeted by 15 per cent, violent crime by 23 per cent and vehicle crime by 40 per cent.
Mrs May, who received polite applause after her address, warned that she would continue to reform policing with or without the federation.
She said: ‘The choice is yours and it is clear. You can choose protest and continue to shout angrily from the sidelines for the next five years. Or you can choose partnership and work with me to change policing for the better.’
Mr White denied officers were ‘crying wolf’ and ‘scaremongering’, saying that the federation was ‘telling it like it is’.