August 30, 2011 10:14 pm

Miliband pledges vote on police cuts

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Labour leader Ed Miliband has pledged to engineer a parliamentary vote on police cuts as part of a fresh campaign against forces’ budget reductions following the riots that flared across the country earlier this month.

Warning that the 20 per cent cuts would “weaken the forces of law and order”, Mr Miliband on Tuesday accused the government of recklessness in its attempts to drive through cost savings which police say will result in the loss of 16,000 officers.

“If there is one lesson we should all learn from the riots is that it was crucial to have our police bravely standing between home and shops on the one hand, and lawlessness on the other,” he said during a tour of Lewisham, one of the boroughs hit by looting and criminal damage during the violence.

Separately, the Metropolitan Police Authority, which oversees Scotland Yard, confirmed on Tuesday that the Met had so far spent £34m on policing the riots, with the figure expected to rise as other police forces send in their bills for the assistance they provided in the capital.

By contrast, the force spent £34.8m policing 42 public order events between April 2010 and March 2011.

Mr Miliband wants to re-open the police spending review in order to reduce the cuts to 12 per cent – a figure which would maintain officer numbers at current levels, according to analysis by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary.

Labour is also arguing that the current cuts schedule – under which £1.65bn of the £2bn savings are to be made in the first two years – should be rearranged so that reductions are made gradually over the full four-year spending period.

Nick Herbert, policing minister, on Tuesday accused Labour of “hypocrisy”, claiming the party had initially proposed to cut £1bn a year from the police budget.

“We have to deal with the deficit which Ed Miliband helped to create, and as a service spending over £14bn a year the police can and must play their part,” Mr Herbert said. “With 25,000 officers in backroom jobs, forces can make savings and still protect the frontline.”

But Boris Johnson, the London mayor, has already undermined the government’s insistence that forces can avoid losing frontline staff by suggesting that the aftermath of the riots is not the time to be making “substantial cuts” in police numbers.

The Labour party campaign coincided with a strike by civilian staff in the Nottinghamshire police control centre, who are calling on the government to “think again” over restructuring plans to save more than £40m in the next four years. Another day of industrial action is planned for Friday, as more than 100 police staff have already lost their jobs, and more than 700 others are thought to be at risk of redundancy.

Meanwhile, David Cameron chaired a ministerial meeting in Downing Street on Tuesday to review government measures to tackle the “broken society”, telling colleagues to put their ideas on the table by October.

One idea being examined is to extend the “national citizens’ service” – a kind of civic national service – while ministers are looking at whether other planned initiatives in areas like welfare and education might be accelerated or expanded.

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