Theresa May defends police relationship after heckles


Home Secretary Theresa May: "Let's stop pretending the police are being picked on"

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Home Secretary Theresa May has denied her relationship with the police is beyond repair after she was heckled at the Police Federation conference.

She used her speech to rank and file officers to justify budget cuts of 20% in England and Wales, and some of the most radical reforms in 30 years.

Mrs May said police needed to "share" in government austerity measures but said change was in forces' interest.

She told the BBC it was right to stick to the "challenging" plans.

"I've told the federation conference as it is - which is that as a government we do have to deal with the deficit, and that means that policing has to take its share of the cuts," Mrs May said in an interview with the BBC's James Landale.

"It is necessary for us to look at this, for the good of policing for the future, and looking at how we can ensure police officers are able to do the job they and the public want them to do."

Some officers held up placards reading "enough is enough" as Mrs May came on stage and she was heckled during the question and answer session that followed.

BBC home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw tweeted that the home secretary had apparently been reluctant to be photographed or filmed directly in front of a sign on stage saying "20% cuts are criminal".

Mrs May, who went on to give her speech to one side of the sign, said afterwards: "It's not a view that I agree with, it's the view that the Police Federation has put forward."

She was clear that police forces needed to explore the idea that some roles were suited to private sector contracting, but denied she was responsible for creeping privatisation.

The home secretary said: "Well, I've been very clear about where the line is drawn today, the picture that the Police Federation have put out today is not one that I recognise, and it is not one that is going to occur.

"But it is right that police forces, in looking at their budgets, should say are there some things we do where it would be better for the private sector to do them."

The federation is unhappy with the government's proposed radical overhaul of pay and conditions, and a challenge to the existing model of policing with the privatisation of an increasing number of jobs.

At the scene

There was a time when a Conservative home secretary would get a standing ovation at the Police Federation conference. Willie Whitelaw and Michael Howard were favourites.

That's changed. From the moment officers stood up and held banners saying "Enough is Enough" to the booing and shouts of "resign" as she left the hall, it was clear this relationship is badly broken.

Although officers listened to her speech respectfully, feelings spilled over during questions.

Mrs May was jeered, heckled and, most embarrassing for her, made the subject of a joke by federation chairman Paul McKeever.

He asked people to raise their hands if they thought the Winsor report on police reform was truly independent. When Mr McKeever pointed out no-one had done so - not even the home secretary - it brought the house down. Mrs May sat stoney-faced.

It was an uncomfortable experience for her but with the police facing further cuts there may be more to come.

In her speech, Mrs May reassured officers that crime fighting duties would not be taken on by the private sector.

She told the Bournemouth conference: "It will only ever be police officers who make arrests; it will only ever be police officers who lead investigations; and it will only ever be police officers who direct policing operations."

But she added: "It's my job to do what is right for policing and right for the country and it's my job to reform policing so that it's fit to face the future.

"Less paperwork, more police work. More power for the public, less power for the bureaucrats and freeing the best police officers in the world to fight crime."

Officers needed to "stop pretending" they were being "picked on", she added. "Every part of the public sector is having to take its share of the pain."

Cheers and applause broke out in the question and answer session as one federation member, Dave Bennett, challenged Mrs May over the proposed pay cuts for new officers and told her: "Home secretary, I believe you are a disgrace".

In his address, Police Federation chairman Paul McKeever said the home secretary was "on the precipice of destroying" a police service admired throughout the world.

He told the conference: "We are about to go through some fundamental change that will alter policing for ever."

"This is a bad deal for police officers, it's a bad deal for the service and most of all it's a bad deal for the British public."

Mr McKeever added that proposed wage cuts were "over and above" other public sector workers and "palpably unfair".

And he cautioned against cutting more officers.

"The reality is the only thing you're going to get more of with less by 20% is more crime, more anti-social behaviour, and more disorder."

Sam Roberts from North Wales Police asked Mrs May if she had ever told a parent that their child had died

A review by former rail regulator Tom Winsor proposed a fundamental shift in how the police are paid - awarding the officers who are taking the greatest risks in front line jobs, while cutting payments and allowances.

It also suggested ending retirement after 30 years service and said potential high achievers should be allowed to enter at inspector level, rather than rise through the ranks.

Mrs May said police would remain the best paid of emergency services but the right to strike in future was "off the table" because "keeping our communities safe is simply too important".

She also announced she would extend police powers to enable officers to prosecute traffic offences where the defendant does not enter a plea or turn up at court. An announcement will also be made in the summer on powers that will give forces further powers "to prosecute a wider range of low-level offences".

Graph showing police numbers in England and Wales

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  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

    I note Devon & Cornwall Police are reported to have scrapped their traffic unit in May 2011 to save money. I was therefore perplexed to see a vehicle transporter with four brand new volvo V70 estates in D&C police livery turn off the M5 into Exeter (wherein resides police HQ) February 2012. If they were serious about cuts I would have been looking at Skodas.

  • rate this

    Comment number 81.

    I agree with cuts to the police what I got a problem is cuts to more important things like welfare.

  • rate this

    Comment number 80.

    What get me is this government is cutting everything in this country but prepared to to give £11 billion in overseas aid and the government as said it is going to back Greece and the Euro as much as needed.

    We are expected to put up with the cuts It is time this government start looking after the UK and not rest of the world
    In any home in this land when money is short you pay what is needed

  • rate this

    Comment number 79.

    It amazes me how she consistently snatches defeat from the jaws of victory. Her ideology, along with her party, is such that reason and understanding has no place in their world. She seriously has to go.

  • rate this

    Comment number 78.

    All of these austerity measures

    so how can George osborne conjure up 10 billion to give to the IMF?

    And how can they justify REDUCING tax for the richest?

    The idea it will encourage more business and employment is a scam - as most companies outsource and exploit poorer nations for the majority of their labour

    Tax avoidance by the richest and regulating the city of london is the only way

  • rate this

    Comment number 77.

    I see that May is making a late dash for the line in the 'Which useless Minister will get dumped by a flailing and incompetent PM first' Stakes?

    Hunt is being sorely pressed here. Can he hold on and claim the win? Will Gove finish his lines in time and make a show of it? Does Eric the Pickles have it in him to make a late slump? There's nary a whisker between any of these pantomime horses.

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    With heavy heart, I think we need to hugely cut money being spent abroad. Billions in foreign military and diplomatic presence, also in aid for countries that shouldn't need it. These are both 'feel good' luxuries from a bygone era.
    You cannot beat your chest as a world power and donor, when at home your people need food parcels and feel unsafe in their own beds. It's just not cricket.

  • rate this

    Comment number 75.

    Why don't the Soloists and all their supporters have the guts to say what they mean..
    Why not put it in clear language !
    The Idea is that all you Working Stiffs are there to be milked dry..
    Our Members in the Public Sector are much more superior and deserving than you.
    You will work as long and be Tax, for as much as we need, You are a cash cow, that's all !!

  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    The Police Service, like the NHS, Civil Service, & Education all need radical reform. All suffer from the same form of complacency, vested interest and conceit. They need to remember they are there to serve the public, they are frequently only concerned about serving themselves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    MPs have the luxury of living in posh areas that is well policed and safe, they also have private medical care so how can they really understand about the average an and woman in the street, and worse than that they don’t care what happens to us as long as we keep paying, it time for change I think

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    "She told the BBC it was right to stick to the "challenging" plans."

    You know what would be really challenging, actually targeting the people that are already doing unreasonably well out of our society (bankers etc.) and taking the money off of them, instead of cutting jobs of hard-working, good, honest people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    Maybe all the public sector workers who aren't happy with the cuts should vote for Ed Milliband's party at the next general election.

    Then they can look forward to nice salaries, overtime, early retirement on generous pensions.


  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    @Rockahula (19)

    "Maybe she and Andrew Lansley have got a secret bet on to see who can be the first to arbitrarily wreck an essential service...?"

    No they're not having a secret bet. Michael Gove is in on it too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    what the CONLIBS are saying is that the heads of police failed to provide an effective/efficient service when they had money available. surely then these same people should be removed as it is unlikely that they will be able to acheive effective/efficient service now money is an issue. there is alot of waste in all GOV dept but just cutting budgets will not put it right

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    From my experiences with the police, they need a good shake. As a law abiding citizen I have taken them evidence of crime and they have shown no interest at all because I am Joe Bloggs. If I were a celebrity the matter would be completely different. They only seem interested in image, statistics and the like.

  • Comment number 67.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    I know a way to cut the budget. Cut them stupid letters out that they send to people stating the obvious that they "are a victim of crime"

    I have seen far too many of them damn letters. I swear that is probably the only thing the police actually do in the majority of cases. Hence the reason I have stopped bothering even reporting a crime anymore

    Budget cuts, doubt I would notice a difference

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    It has been argued that the coalition are morally and ethically corrupt. After watching programmes like Panorama and Dispatches it is hard not to have an intense dislike for the way they protect the rich and appear to let the 90% go to the dogs
    But I can't help feeling that May is just a Tory puppet, is just following orders, and being a women is seen as an obvious easy-target to the misogynists

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    Personally I wouldn't want to do the job the police do with the inherent danger involved in the job. Neither would i want to stay until 65 in such a job.

    When we, as a society, deny a section of the workfore the right to take industrial action because their function is so vital, we have to accept that a covenant must exist to recognise this resitriction on rights. EG: binding arbritation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    We have the worst condition in the workforce whether private or public than any other country in Europe.
    We are slowly becoming the 51st state of America, for all the little Englanders that would be great...!
    This Government has to understand that it is not just the man on the street that has to pay for the DEbts we have but also all those 'very rich people' ..


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