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May rejects police cuts' warnings

Home Secretary Theresa May has 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 British public "don't simply resort to violent unrest in the face of challenging economic circumstances" and it is "ridiculous" to suggest that savings could not be made in the police service, she said.

Mrs May took to the stage at the Police Superintendents' Association of England and Wales conference in Cheshire after Chief Supt 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" on the streets.

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 and making it "inevitable" that crime would rise.

But Mrs May dismissed the concerns as "pure speculation", saying: "Lower budgets do not automatically have to mean lower police numbers.

"The front line should be the last place you should look to make savings, not the first."

And she added that more officers will not lead to less crime if their time is spent on the "pointless tasks of form-filling and chasing targets".

"As any experienced senior police officer will confirm, the effectiveness of a police force depends not primarily on the absolute number of police officers in the force but the way those officers are used," she said.

"The key to success is good management and leadership."

The Government wants to be the first in more than a decade to free officers to cut crime, giving them the space needed to do their jobs, she said, and ministers would cut red tape and slash bureaucracy in a bid to hand back power to the professionals and the people.


From Belfast Telegraph