Labour accused of using ‘dodgy’ numbers in ‘unachievable’ policing plan | Politics | News

February 16, 2024
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Keir Starmer and Yvette Cooper have been accused of using “dodgy numbers” in their plans to hire 13,000 extra police officers.

Policing leaders branded Labour’s neighbourhood policing plan “unachievable”, “wishful thinking” and “centrally driven cuts”.

They called for the Labour leader and Shadow Home Secretary to “come clean” over how they will pay for the additional officers.

Conservative Police and Crime Commissioners warned that Labour has not accounted for at least £42 million in training costs.

And they said the policy is being paid for by demanding police chiefs cut £360m from their combined budgets through a “Police Efficiency and Collaboration programme”.

Blue Light Commercial, which was established by the Home Office in 2020 to help forces secure better shared deals on things like equipment, estate management contracts, forensics and the management of police cars, will only save forces £24m this financial year.

This is predicted to rise to £100m next year, leading to fears that Labour is drastically short of the cash it needs and could be planning bigger mergers or deeper cuts to other parts of police forces.

Katy Bourne, Police and Crime Commissioner for Sussex, said: “Labour’s pledge to recruit more officers just doesn’t add up.

“Their dodgy numbers miss out over £40 million of training and recruiting costs. They also want police forces to make fanciful cuts to find a further £360 million a year.

“Even if Labour followed the SNP’s disastrous decision to merge every police force in the country, it wouldn’t restore neighbourhood policing. Scotland’s local police numbers actually fell after their merger.”

Roger Hirst, Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex, said: “Police and Crime Commissioners understand their area’s policing needs best, and by giving us greater freedom over the council tax policing precept, we can fund the officers our communities need. Essex is among the few places to see more neighbourhood officers on the beat.

“Labour’s proposal to find efficiencies is simply unachievable and won’t deliver the savings they think. We need more decision-making powers locally rather than centrally driven cuts to satisfy national programmes.”

The independent think tank, Police Foundation, claimed that forces sharing specialist services and key backroom functions, such as HR departments, could save forces up to £690m.

Labour said improving procurement processes for things like uniforms and equipment could save at least £225m.

More collaboration on “shared services and specialist functions” could save £145m.

Labour has said they have taken a “conservative” estimate on the savings they will achieve. The party said this will lead to “guaranteed patrols of town centres and a named officer for every local area”.

But Tory sources have argued the savings are simply not there to be found.

Matthew Scott, Police and Crime Commissioner for Kent, said: “As usual, Labour’s numbers don’t add up. Labour’s unrealistic plan to cut £360 million a year – or £9m more in Kent – to pay for more officers would mean the loss of jobs for more police staff. And much of what they are proposing to save money on Police and Crime Commissioners are already delivering.

“The public wants to see a credible plan to put more officers on the beat, not wishful thinking. If we want more police on the beat, we need investment.”

The warning comes as think-tank Onward called for a “ring-fenced one-off council tax increase”, costing 45p a week, to pay for 19,000 additional neighbourhood police officers.

The recruitment drive should hire 3,000 neighbourhood police officers, 10,000 police community support officers (PCSOs) and 6,000 special constables over the next five years, costing nearly £600 million a year, Onward said.

The plan has been supported by 10 Police and Crime Commissioners.

Callum Newton, Senior Researcher at Onward (who authored Back to Basics), said: “Crime is a major concern for communities across the country, and the public wants to see more officers on the beat.

“Ministers should scrap the cap on Police and Crime Commissioner precepts to give them the resources they need to rebuild neighbourhood policing, improve visibility and combat crime on Britain’s streets.

“For only an extra 45 pence a week, our plan will help deliver two new uniformed officers in every ward across England & Wales.”



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