Life in Politics with Fabian Hamilton, Labour MP for Leeds North East: Police cuts putting city communities at risk

The Government is putting communities in Leeds at risk after a series of cuts to local government budgets has forced council tax up and police numbers down.

The fact is that a Labour Government would properly fund local police forces, focusing particularly on front line services, whereas the Tories have continued to do significant damage to police support since 2010.

Since they entered coalition with the Liberal Democrats, the Tories have cut West Yorkshire’s policing budget by more than one-third, equating to £140m. This move has not only forced West Yorkshire police to make drastic structural changes, but has led directly to the loss of 2,000 front line police officers.

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Not only in Leeds, but across the country, local government is baring the brunt of the Tory austerity agenda. Austerity is a political decision, which shows a blatant disregard for our public services and the safety of our communities, affecting not just our police force, but the National Health Service, and transport.

This has forced Leeds City Council into increasing council tax after its consultation into the Initial Budget Proposals for 2018/19 found that working with police to prevent and tackle crime and anti-social behaviour was the second highest priority for local residents (73 per cent).

Thanks to the excellent work of Labour’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Mark Burns-Williamson, West Yorkshire Police has managed to sustain current levels of Police and Community Safety Officers (PCSOs) in Leeds, despite the Government’s repeated attacks on their funding. While front line police services must be protected as the top priority, slashing local government funding also damages other vital policing areas, such as cyber security, roads policing, and safeguarding. Leeds City Council and West Yorkshire Police are doing their best to prevent Tory austerity from affecting the police service, but central government funding makes up 80% of West Yorkshire’s police budget.

With the population of West Yorkshire now equalling 493 residents to every one police officer, without proper funding it is going to prove near impossible for the police to continue to deliver an outstanding service.

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Time and time again, Chief Constables from across the country have warned of the effects this Government’s agenda will have on local policing, and the Tories continue to ignore them. Not only has the Government ignored the officers that serve on the front line day in day out, but has also failed to recognise warnings from the independent inspector, which says that forces are now so stretched that officers are exhausted and that is putting vulnerable people at risk.

It is baffling that the Government continues to claim there is no link between the fact that police numbers are the lowest in 30 years, while recorded crime across the country is at its highest.

Labour in Government will invest in the safety of our communities, with an extra 10,000 officers hired by properly funded local authorities.

Tackling the causes of crime should start in the hearts of our communities, not in Westminster, which is why Labour will promote a joined up approach across the public sector, ensuring the police work in close co-operation with local authorities, health and social services, and other agencies, to deliver stronger, safer communities, with a focus on preventing crime, reducing harm, and providing better support and understanding for victims.