Home secretary defends cuts to policing budget

Theresa May: "Not all of of you will like some of the decisions I have taken"

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The Home Secretary, Theresa May, has denied that plans to cut the police budget are an attack on the force.

She told the Police Federation's annual conference: "It isn't revenge, it's a rescue mission to bring our country back from the brink."

Mrs May was responding to criticisms by leading officers that the cuts are a form of retribution by ministers for foiled attempts to reform pay in 1993.

Federation chairman Paul McKeever said the cuts were wrong-headed and unfair.

Mr McKeever told the federation's annual conference in Bournemouth: "Home Secretary, we're in the forefront of this fight against terrorism; we're in the forefront of keeping our communities safe, and yet we see what's perceived by most of us as an attack on the police service and we don't understand why."

Stormy reception

But Mrs May said the plans were to "ensure our police come back [from the recession] not just intact but better equipped for the future".

Analysis

To say there's no love lost between the home secretary and the Police Federation would be an understatement. Theresa May was made to sit through a video of street clashes over cuts, played on the massive screen behind her, to the sounds of The Kaiser Chief's "I Predict a Riot".

The home secretary suggested there would be concessions over pensionable age - but held her ground on the case for reforms to police pay.

Pc David Rathband, blinded by gunman Raoul Moat, appeared on video to ask if she thought he was paid too much.

Delegates at Bournemouth believe Theresa May is not prepared to listen. Few deny that there should be reforms - but they believe the Home Office got boxed into a corner in the Spending Review and is changing policing without thinking it through. There were no pantomime boos at the seaside for Mrs May - but the deafening silence when she left the podium said it all.

"Let's stop pretending that any country can avoid balancing the books."

Mrs May said the cuts were essential as part of the spending review, but she also wanted to work with the police on cutting red tape and finding ways to modernise the job.

However, officers say they feel under attack from the government on a range of fronts.

Officer numbers are falling after reaching record highs, and central government funding for police is being cut by a fifth under the spending review.

Ministers have also backed a far-reaching package of reforms which they say will modernise pay and conditions and award talented, hard-working front-line officers.

But chief constables are struggling to make the cuts work and the Chief Inspector of Constabulary has warned that some forces will find it difficult to reduce budgets without cutting the front line.

'Exceptional risks'

The 1993 Sheehy report called for performance-related pay, cuts in overtime and fixed-term contracts.

The Police Federation argued against it, saying policing was a unique job with exceptional risks. Most of the package was scrapped after officers staged a rally at Wembley Arena.

John Giblin: "This government hate the police service and want to destroy it"

The home secretary's visit to the conference comes after a stormy first day. Opening the conference, a leading member of the Police Federation accused the government of "hating" the police and wanting to "destroy" the service.

John Giblin said: "We acknowledge that some cuts are necessary due to the parlous state of the country's finances, but we feel greatly let down that we are not considered to be a protected priority area by the government.

"This government, to put it bluntly, hate the police service and want to destroy it in order to rebuild it again, but in their image."

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