UK Politics

Police cuts: David Cameron tried to save constituency stations

David Cameron Image copyright AP

David Cameron privately lobbied to stop the closure of police stations in his constituency as the force tried to find £60m of savings, the BBC has learnt.

The disclosure has prompted Labour to accuse him of "jaw-dropping hypocrisy".

Number 10 said Mr Cameron had acted in his capacity as a local MP who believed Thames Valley Police could make savings without affecting front-line services.

This week it emerged Mr Cameron, MP for Witney in Oxfordshire, is involved in a row over cuts with the county council.

The PM had written to Oxfordshire council leader Ian Hudspeth saying he was "disappointed" at proposed cuts to elderly day centres, libraries and museums.

The Tory-run council said it had little choice because its grant had fallen sharply - from £194m a year in 2009/10 to £122m this year.

'Out of touch'

Downing Street has now confirmed to BBC Newsnight that Mr Cameron also lobbied Thames Valley Police to try to prevent the closure, or partial closure, of police stations in the region.

In the last parliament, Thames Valley had to find £57m worth of savings.

Despite being praised by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary for being an efficient and well-run force, it still closed seven police stations, and reduced opening hours at others.

One police source told Newsnight the force had done the best it could but could not afford to keep open stations that "hardly anyone ever uses".

Shadow cabinet minister Jon Ashworth said the prime minister was "completely unaware" of the effects of budget cuts in local communities.

"I think it's jaw-droppingly hypocritical from the prime minister because the reason these services are being cut in his constituency is because he is cutting them," he said.

"He is the first lord of the treasury, he is the man who is signing off George Osborne's cuts plan, so I'm surprised that the prime minister is so out of touch with what the impact of these cuts would mean that he is now lobbying organisations in his own constituency against the very cuts he is implementing."

'Sensible savings'

Steve White, chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said Mr Cameron's lobbying of local police chiefs showed a disconnect between politicians in government and those implementing cuts.

"It's a bit disingenuous to have some politicians say they want to protect their own local police station but actually they know full well that it will be at the cost of other police stations around the country or indeed in the force," he said.

Downing Street denied that Mr Cameron was being hypocritical.

A spokesman said Mr Cameron had spoken up as a local MP during conversations with local police chiefs.

"He wants to see local authorities and the police making sensible savings through back office efficiencies and joint working," he said.

No 10 said the prime minister believed it was possible reduce costs without affecting front-line, high-quality public services.

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