Labour in warning to Government over proposed police cuts
"Drastic" cuts to the police will put public safety at risk and England and Wales could be left with 22,000 fewer officers, Labour has warned ahead of a Commons vote on the issue.
Shadow home secretary Andy Burnham will tell MPs in an Opposition day debate that potential planned cutbacks of up to 25% of police budgets over the next five years will lead to the end of neighbourhood policing.
Some of Britain's most senior police figures, including Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, have expressed deep concerns over the planned cuts in recent weeks.
And six police and crime commissioners have been joined by Stephen Greenhalgh, Boris Johnson's deputy mayor for policing and crime in London, in threatening legal action unless the cuts are delayed.
Mr Burnham, who believes forces can absorb cuts of under 10% but not more, will force a Commons vote on the issue on Wednesday - although because it arises on an Opposition day motion, it will not be binding.
Ahead of the debate, he said: "Our message to the Government is simple - with violent crime rising, now is not the time to cut the police. While some savings can be made, any cuts in double figures will put public safety at risk.
"Labour has shown in the past how it can fight for our NHS. Now is the time to show we can do the same for our police. If cuts on this scale go ahead, it will take thousands of bobbies off the beat and signal the end of neighbourhood policing as we have known it.
"Every person and every community in the land will be affected by these cuts. But the public are not yet aware of what is about to happen. We have called this debate today to alert people to the danger. If enough people sign this petition we could yet force the Government to back down and protect our police."
Labour is backing a petition sponsored by the former Met commissioner and crossbench peer Lord (John) Stevens of Kirkwhelpington, calling for the Government to drop the planned cuts expected in this month's spending review.
Lords Stevens said: "We call on the Government to listen to the public and police officers, drop plans for drastic cuts and protect visible, locally-responsive neighbourhood policing.
"In the last five years, police forces across England and Wales have lost 12,000 front-line officers. Government plans to cut the police by between 25% and 40% over the next five years could lead to the loss of over 20,000 more. Indeed, any budget cuts in double figures would spell the end of neighbourhood policing and put the public at risk."