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 662.

    1 Minute Ago

    Theresa says "the Police has'nt been reformed in 30 years"
    ? Why does "reform" always = a negative effect on your pay and or your conditions,and never a positive!
    Also whenever a Gov or employer use a recession etc as an excuse to cut,do you notice that when the good times return the cuts are not returned in equal measure?
    Maybe you could take a private sector pension

  • rate this

    Comment number 661.

    For one, being in debt is vital for our survival. If nobody was in debt, nobody would work or trade or sell anything. So just being in debt isn't necessarily a bad thing in itself.

    That said, I think May is right, I've read the reforms and they seem quite sensible. The police are just resisting change, that's all, and they're not the first publicly funded organisation to do that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 660.

    This Dictatorship wants the Victorian days back, we all work for bread and water and be grateful for it. But the thing is we are all sitting back and letting them do it. I wish the people of this country could find some guts and get rid of the attitude Thatcher created, IM ALL RIGHT JACK.

  • rate this

    Comment number 659.


    So squandering oil and gas revenues not a crime ?

    Creating an economy that over relies on an unsustainable financial sector isn't criminal ?

    Embedding a benefit culture,then demonising the victims completely fine and dandy?

    One simple step would be to introduce a Land Value Tax

    There is more chance of the so called monarch washing a hard working persons feet on Maundy Thursday

  • Comment number 658.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 657.

    #531 Mentioned this - it stinks of yet more Tory corruption

    So what you're saying Mr GS4's lawyer is the privatisation's a spiffo idea.....

    Still at least Mrs May has no direct connections or interests, unless the large shareholding in Prudential would benefit in some way from,say GS4 say, being awarded a contract.

  • rate this

    Comment number 656.

    The alternative to cutting is to raise tax revenues surely? If the wealthiest among us paid 70% tax they would still earn in a year what most of us earn in a lifetime but you can't legislate morality. The politicians love to use the analogy of the household budget. Our society seems to be akin to me taking a third of my son's paper round wage to pay our bills whilst hiding my money to pay nothing

  • rate this

    Comment number 655.

    613. Mr W
    Why isn't taxing the Rich more a credible suggestion?

    There is really no way out if you accept the logic of Capitalism, we are trapped in a cycle of competition and chaos because of it.

    First thing to do is set priorities. Do we need food, space, health care and security or 2 cars, 5 kids, an ipod and three houses? There are plenty of alternatives but there are no easy options.

  • rate this

    Comment number 654.

    How come 100m tax cut 100m to defense firms 200m to the liam foxes , thersa mays of this world

  • rate this

    Comment number 653.

    627. guitarman08 = Don't actually remember Thatcher having plastic surgery and to my knowledge I have never worn more than one shoe per foot. 640. Aikiguy - I have noticed a trend from people such as yourself. Why is it that anyone who disagrees with you (general), is either a rabid Tory or foaming at the mouth Lab?

  • rate this

    Comment number 652.

    The police force post-1997 like most of the public sector received generous budget rises and mass recruitment. Unfortunately more money does not always = better performance. All of our services are inefficently bloated from paper work and bureaucracy. Violent criminals are crawling our streets. They say crime is down but we know it's a lie, most people don't even report crime anymore.

  • rate this

    Comment number 651.


    I feel the Tory contributors on here have learned nothing from Billy Bragg....."

    i don't think they'll get that, Billy Bragg isn't on Classic FM very often.

  • rate this

    Comment number 650.

    money created society now we need something else to run it

  • rate this

    Comment number 649.


    Who is loaning us the money for the wars more like!

    Why does the gov't have to 'borrow' money from the banks anyways?

    Who gave banks the right to have complete ownership of everything, and the ability to magic up as much money as they want to buy up whats left? And they're that good at banking with these tools they still go bust! Pathetic!

  • rate this

    Comment number 648.

    632 - Well put.
    I know how Nick Clegg can sleep at night because he has no consience and has more so much in common with Rupert Murdoch ie power is all that matters and he will support a bunch of priviledge millionaires who care not for the ordinary man because none of what they are doing effects them. Policing does not matter to them because they live in the country and in secure homes.

  • Comment number 647.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 646.

    I would love to see Mrs May don a uniform and do a 7 night shift in Newham. She talks the talk but can`t do the walk. It amazes me, how in her tiny mind ,she thinks its all Ok out here in the real World.

  • rate this

    Comment number 645.

    Look policing is a difficult job,it will probably get more difficult as austerity bites ever harder,desperate people do desperate things. This woman is an imbecile.

  • rate this

    Comment number 644.

    Theresa says "the Police has'nt been reformed in 30 years"
    ? Why does "reform" always = a negative effect on your pay and or your conditions,and never a positive!
    Also whenever a Gov or employer use a recession etc as an excuse to cut,do you notice that when the good times return the cuts are not returned in equal measure?

  • rate this

    Comment number 643.

    Well it appears that as far as making a positive impression on the Police forces of the UK, Theresa May not.


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