Home Secretary Theresa May yesterday rejected a warning from senior police officers that the Government's spending cuts will leave forces unable to cope with rising social and industrial tensions.
The public “don't simply resort to violent unrest in the face of challenging economic circumstances” and it is “ridiculous” to suggest savings could not be made in the police service, she said.
Mrs May took to the stage at the annual conference of the Police Superintendents' Association of England and Wales in Cheshire after Chief Superintendent Derek Barnett urged her to protect the service from the worst of the cuts to ensure it is kept “sufficiently resilient” to be able to respond properly to “widespread disorder”.
It comes after the Police Federation predicted it would be “Christmas for criminals” if 25% budget cuts go ahead, leading to the loss of up to 40,000 officers.
But Mrs May dismissed the concerns as “pure speculation”, saying: “Lower budgets do not automatically have to mean lower police numbers.”
She added that more officers do not mean less crime if their time is spent on the “pointless tasks of form-filling and chasing targets”.
“I want police officers to be crime-fighters, not form-writers,” she said, adding that the Government will cut red tape and slash bureaucracy in a bid to hand back power to the professionals and the people.
“That means getting your officers out from behind their desk and out on to the streets, where they want to be and where the public want them to be,” she said.