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 122.

    This 'home secretary' has lost any respect that the Police may have had for her & her 'party'.
    She has shown that he & the rest of her party cannot be trusted to put the public's safety first. She will change her view when our next terrorist attack happens, or the next riots, & there are no Police Officers willing or able to put their lives on the line. Well done MAY, & thanks for nothing!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 121.

    What a lot of people seem to have forgotten is that the Conservatives moved immediately to implement five year fixed term parliaments. The effect of that is that no amount of complaining, demonstrating, reasoning or dissenting can stop them.

    The Conservatives understand this thoroughly, hence their total disdain for anything the public has to say. They'll do their damage and move on.

  • rate this

    Comment number 120.

    Its so funny - the police do everything to make things run smoothly for the privileged few to the detriment of the many and now they have been stabbed in the back.Thatcher did it to the Notts miners when they were stupid enough to trust a Tory. Ha Ha Ha.

  • rate this

    Comment number 119.

    I wonder if Tom Winsor, who's idea all this £19,000 a year lark is or the dear delusioned home secretary or cronies would even get out of bed for £19,000 a year....Mmmm...Doubtful indeed!

  • rate this

    Comment number 118.

    #105..... berk

  • rate this

    Comment number 117.

    irrispective of how good or bad anyone thinks the police service is. a 20% budget cut is only going to make it worse. it isnt a case of doing more with less it is simply going to be doing less with less.

  • rate this

    Comment number 116.

    the army and police are bound by not being able to strike but if the GOV can break the laws and promises then so can they, what would the GOV do if they all walked out, sack them all and have no one left? problem is like all unions they would not all take action meaning they will not succeed. we will suffer an even worse service

  • rate this

    Comment number 115.

    Paid way more than the military, with far better pensions and work conditions, and far fewer cuts.
    Although, since they outnumber the combined might of all 3 services, perhaps we should just send them to Helmand to sort the place out.

  • rate this

    Comment number 114.

    78. VesselAnaw

    And how can they justify REDUCING tax for the richest?



    It is unquestionable that most of us in the top tax bracket are AT LEAST twice as productive both mentally and economically in comparison to those earning less. I am sick of this 'Rich Bashing' on HYS. We (the city) supplement your coffee shops, minion office jobs, supermarkets, retail, construction etc...

  • rate this

    Comment number 113.

    First thing Maggie did on taking power was to make sure the police pay awards went though. This was a jolly good scheme as it came to pass that she had to rely rather heavily on the police to deal with the industrial unrest her policies created.
    I would say the coalition had not thought this through at all - silly boys

  • rate this

    Comment number 112.

    the public sector is far to big and completely unsustainable that is a fact we have to get used to. Cuts have to be made.

  • rate this

    Comment number 111.

    I think Ms May and all politicians should have their police protection withdrawn - they should be the first to suffer any cuts - I think that is only fair to the rest of us who will no doubt suffer any consequences.

  • rate this

    Comment number 110.

    Good for Teresa May. I suggest someone tackle the layers of management - Police Officer, Sergeant, Inspector, Chief Inspector, Superintendent, Chief Superintendent, Commander, Assistant Chief Constable, Chief Constable....

  • rate this

    Comment number 109.

    People should stop generalising and being nasty to our police. They're not ALL BNP...

  • rate this

    Comment number 108.

    Dressing up cuts as "challenging" reforms isn't just 'spin', it's dishonesty. Furthermore, because the deceit is so arrogantly transparent, it makes clear - firstly the low opinion she has of police officers' intelligence and secondly how unresponsive to their views she will be.

  • rate this

    Comment number 107.

    Same old tories, starve it of cash, run down and then sell it off. How this women is still in a job after all the bad press she has received since becoming Home Secretary beggers belief

  • rate this

    Comment number 106.

    I worked alongside police officers for 20 years .It's difficult to quantify and departmentalise their time.Some tasks take far longer than others.It's not like counting how many objects a worker can make per hour.The sooner the money men and Ms May realise this the better.The police front line has already been decimated by the accountants,time for them to stop.

  • rate this

    Comment number 105.

    Recently had to deal with the police. Absolutely useless and totaly clueless! And certainly not worth anywhere near what they are paid!

    Get with the times! Your gold-plated benefits are unaffordable along with the rest of the public sector!

    It's time we put an end to the socialist (communist more like) dominance of the public sector in this country! Get out there and work like the rest of us!

  • rate this

    Comment number 104.

    Not only were May and Lansley slow hand clapped and heckled at the respective Police and Nurses conferences but more significantly when uttering their respective polices they were laughed at.

    As a retired Met Police Officer married to a nurse a government of any political persuasion that is so out of touch with these two very moderate groups that they appear laughable has had it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    May : "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."

    How about doing it then, instead of fronting Tea Party (UK) dogma.


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