Home secretary defends cuts to policing budget

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

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".

"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.

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Media captionJohn 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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