Police blast Hammond over ‘move resources’ demand amid knife crime surge
The Police Federation said the Chancellor’s call for forces to move officers away from ‘lower priority’ crime is ‘an insult’.
Chancellor Philip Hammond’s demand that police shift existing resources into tackling knife crime rather than expect more funding has been branded “an insult”.
Speaking on Thursday after another stabbing death in London, Mr Hammond said forces should move officers away from “lower priority” crime and on to knife violence.
His comments, which also included a suggestion that public services would get more cash if MPs voted for Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal, were lambasted by the Police Federation of England and Wales.
National chairman John Apter said: “Children are dying on our streets and he has the audacity to suggest that the police need to prioritise. Let me assure him – this is a priority.
“Across England and Wales my members are the ones working flat-out to prevent more young people being killed.
“They are often the ones on their knees in the street trying desperately to save the lives of these young victims, they are the ones who have to deliver the terrible news to families that their loved one will never be coming home again.
“And they are doing it with almost 22,000 fewer colleagues than when the Conservative Government came to power.”
Mr Hammond told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the spike in knife crime needed to be tackled through “a surging of resources from other areas of policing activity”.
“That’s what you do in any organisation when you get a specific problem occurring in one area of the operation – you move resources to deal with that,” he said.
“And what the public will want to know is that this Friday night and this Saturday night there are going to be more police officers focused on dealing with knife crime, and that means necessarily fewer police officers that will be dealing with other lower priority areas of activity.”
On Wednesday, Home Secretary Sajid Javid said after an emergency meeting with chief constables that resources were “very important” and the Government should “listen” to police.
Mr Hammond insisted that police budgets were rising, and said knife crime is “an immediate problem, you cannot solve it by recruiting and training more officers – that takes time”.
He said the “right Brexit deal” will enable money set aside for no-deal to be “put into public services over the next three years”.
The number of police officers across the 43 forces in England and Wales has fallen by more than 20,000 since 2009 but the Prime Minister has said there is no correlation between the decline and “certain crimes”.
Calling on Mr Hammond to “leave his Westminster bubble” and increase funding, Mr Apter said: “It is an insult to my dedicated and hard-working colleagues, and it shows a shocking lack of awareness or understanding of the reality of the crisis happening right now in towns and cities across the country.”
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell accused Mr Hammond of being “tin-eared” and “acting like a management consultant”.
He said: “The two most senior members of the Government are in total denial about the impact of police cuts. You can’t protect people on the cheap.”
The funding spat followed the fatal stabbing in Leyton, east London, of a man in his 20s on Wednesday night and the death in hospital of a 22-year-old man who was attacked in Oxford on February 27.
West Midlands Police are also investigating whether knives were involved in an incident at Matthew Boulton College in Birmingham on Wednesday afternoon, which left two teenagers in hospital.
It can't be right so many young people who've committed offences have been excluded from school.— Sadiq Khan (@SadiqKhan) March 7, 2019
I'm calling on the PM to act urgently & give local authorities & schools the power & resources to properly support vulnerable children at risk of exclusions.pic.twitter.com/bHx52qSVUP
London Mayor Sadiq Khan and seven Police and Crime Commissioners have written a letter to Mrs May, warning that a “broken” school exclusion system is exacerbating the surge.
“It cannot be right that so many of those who have committed offences have been excluded from school or were outside of mainstream education,” it said.
The letter, sent on Thursday, also urged an end to “off-rolling” – removing pupils from school registers – to increase average exam results.