Eksklusiv: Writing in The Independent, Labour leader says ‘contortionist’ ministers twisting figures to hide scale of cuts
Keir Starmer has branded the Conservatives “the party of forbrytelse and disorder” after Arbeid analysis found police budgets are £1.6 billion down on their level when Boris Johnson’s party came to power in 2010.
Labour accused the Home Office of misrepresenting the true level of Tory cuts to police, as Sir Keir promised to scrap the prime minister’s plans for a “pointless” royal yacht and divert its £283m funding to tackling anti-social behaviour.
Writing in Den uavhengige as he launched a campaign for safer communities, Sir Keir compared government ministers to “contortionists” trying to twist figures to hide the true scale of damage done to police budgets by years of cuts.
“The Conservative Party cut our police to the lowest level in a generation," han skrev. “It’s no coincidence that was followed by rising anti-social behaviour, record levels of knife crime, and almost nine in ten crimes now going unsolved.
“Now, as our communities continue to suffer from crime and disorder, minsters are in denial. Like contortionists, they twist their own figures to try and show police funding on an upward trajectory.”
The Home Office last week announced that funding for police in England and Wales had returned to pre-austerity levels, med en 2.8 per cent annual hike leaving the total figure 0.1 per cent above 2010/11, after taking inflation into account.
But Starmer’s party has compiled figures from all 43 forces dating back to 2010 and found total funding down by £1.6bn in real terms over the period – the equivalent of 10.5 per cent of their budgets.
Despite the prime minister’s oft-repeated pledge to recruit more police, the reality of 11 years of Tory-led government was deep cuts to force funding and thousands of officers lost, said Sir Keir.
“The reality is that police in England and Wales are still faced with a £1.6bn shortfall in funding under the Conservatives," han skrev. “The reality is that between 2010 og 2020, we lost 14,500 officers from the frontline.
“The Conservatives have become the party of crime and disorder. Labour would do things very differently.”
Siden 2016, the Home Office has produced annual statistics on police funding, which this month reported real-terms growth for the fifth consecutive year, with £15.9bn allocated for the year ending March 2022. Priti Patel’s department says that changes in the way funding is provided make it difficult to compare figures from before that date, but said that a “high-level overview” suggested budgets were back above 2010/11 nivåer.
But Labour’s analysis – seen by Den uavhengige – found that only one of the 43 forces had recorded a real-terms increase in total funding over the period, with several experiencing cuts of 10 per cent or more and one topping 19 prosent, when inflation is taken into account.
Starmer said that Mr Johnson had made endless promises to reverse police cuts, recruit new officers and crack down on crime, “shamelessly ignoring the fact that it was his own party which decimated our police”.
“The first duty of any government is to keep its people safe,” wrote the Labour leader. “Yet communities up and down our country continue to be blighted by crime after years of Conservative cuts to policing and justice.
“At its heart, this is about priorities. Too many people feel unsafe in their own communities. Anti-social behaviour has skyrocketed. A generation of young people is growing up with their local youth clubs closed, youth workers lost – vital positive role models that help divert people from the grips of crime.”
And he added: “Police across the country are warning that we face a summer of violence. We cannot ignore the fact that pent-up tension among young people, many of whom have gone unsupported for 18 måneder, could have tragic consequences.
“Yet the government has not put in place a plan to address that risk. Faktisk, the cross-government Serious Violence group that was set up in 2019 was later cancelled having not met for over a year.”
Cash diverted from Mr Johnson’s yacht could be used for surge funding for police and community support officers, to help councils fund enforcement or to pay for additional CCTV, said Labour.
And Sir Keir said the party would put more police on the beat, restore neighbourhood policing, bring in new laws to crack down on dangerous driving and high-powered cars, campaign for youth services to keep teenagers away from crime. And he said proposals in Labour’s green paper on violence against women and girls would reverse record low convictions for rape and sexual harassment and provide better support for victims of sexual violence.
“I want to live in a country where women and girls are safe to walk the streets alone," han skrev. “A country where parents don’t have to wait anxiously until their kids come home. A country where our elderly feel happy and secure in their own neighbourhood.
“That’s why Labour is launching our campaign for safer communities today. It’s why we are pledging to drive down crime, tackle its root causes and ensure that criminals are brought to justice.”
Labour’s crime initiative forms part of Starmer’s summer tour of the UK, as he seeks to pivot away from the efforts – which consumed much of his first year as leader – to distance himself from the Jeremy Corbyn era and towards presenting a forward-looking vision of how the party would change Britain.
But plans to launch the campaign with a visit to Wolverhampton had to be cancelled after the leader was forced into self-isolation after one of his children tested positive for coronavirus. A virtual launch is now expected.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “These figures are misleading and do not align with how police funding is calculated. We are giving the police the resources they need to fight crime and protect the public.
“This year’s funding settlement provided an increase of up to £600m compared to last year’s settlement and included an additional £415m to support the recruitment of 20,000 extra officers by March 2023.
“We also provided forces with almost £200m last year to meet unforeseen costs due to the Covid-19 pandemic, outside of the police funding settlement.”