Labour calls on police commissioners to hold Ministers to account

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Next week’s elections for Police and Crime Commissioners should be used to “send a message” to the Government about public discontent with cuts to officers on the frontline, Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper has said.

The Pontefract and Castleford MP yesterday made clear that she expects all the Labour candidates who are successful in next Thursday’s ballots to use their roles to hold the national Government to account for decisions that affect policing.

Home Secretary Theresa May should not be allowed to “shrug off” her responsibility for the consequences of her decisions by passing it off on to the new commissioners being created in 41 police areas in England and Wales, she said.

Ms Cooper told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “There is a lot at stake with the scale of cuts being made to policing – 15,000 police officers being lost across the country. We want to send a strong message to the Government that they are doing the wrong thing on policing.”

Although Labour opposed the creation of PCCs, Ms Cooper said that the party did not believe it was right to boycott the elections, and said she expected successful Labour candidates to give a voice to local communities’ concerns about the Government’s policies.

“The first thing they will be doing is knocking on Home Secretary Theresa May’s door and saying they need to rethink the budget for that year’s policing. The Government’s cutting by 20 per cent and that is doing huge damage.

“They will be making that message on behalf of their local communities and on behalf of their local forces, because they can all see the damage that is being done to police forces, to the frontline, where we can see thousands of police officers being taken away from 999 response units, neighbourhood police and traffic cops - the very police that we rely on in an emergency.”

Ms Cooper said that whoever is elected as a PCC will be facing “huge challenges for policing from the national Government, not only the scale of the cuts but the drive coming from the Government to get police forces to contract out huge swathes to private companies like G4S”.

She added: “The Home Secretary is trying to shrug off responsibility for crime and policing consequences of the decisions she is making.

“In these circumstances, I think we do need a strong message back to the Government that we can’t simply let them get away with it. We can’t have local PCCs expected to take the flak for the decisions the Government is taking.”