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May accused on police commissioners

Theresa May is setting up police and crime commissioners because she wants them "to take the flack for her mess", the shadow home secretary has said.

Yvette Cooper accused the Home Secretary of replacing the existing police authorities with elected commissioners so they can be blamed for the consequences of the Government's cuts to police funding.

The claim comes as the Government was also accused of presiding over a "shambles" in its handling of the elections.

Ms Cooper said: "Theresa May is setting police and crime commissioners up because she wants them to take the flack for her mess. But it is communities that will pay the price of the Tories' decisions to turn their backs on the fight against crime."

She went on: "Theresa May and David Cameron need to come clean about the next wave of cuts to crime prevention before the November elections rather than conning the electorate and the new commissioners.

David Cameron and Theresa May are weak on crime and its causes - cutting 15,000 police officers and cutting crime prevention by 60% too. Street lighting, action on gangs, CCTV plans, youth services and community safety projects are all being hit - making it much harder for the police and communities to prevent crime.

"The Government won't even admit until after the police and crime commissioner budgets what next year's funding will be for crime prevention in future. How can candidates have an open debate with voters about crime prevention if the Government won't admit whether they are taking all the money away?"

Earlier, peers reacted angrily at being asked to approve an order allowing ballot papers to be printed in both English and Welsh, 48 hours before a deadline for them to go out to voters. Labour former minister Lord Touhig said £350,000 had been wasted on printing ballot papers in English alone, in case the order was not passed in time. Branding the move a "complete shambles", Lord Touhig said: "This Government staggers from one crisis to another of its own making."

Voters in England and Wales are due to go to the polls on November 15 to elect a commissioner for each force area outside London. The new commissioners will control police budgets, set priorities and have the power to hire and fire chief constables.

A Whitehall source said the plan to introduce directly elected commissioners was widely talked about in Opposition and was also in the coalition's manifesto - before any cuts were made to the police budget.

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