Would-be police bosses clash over numbers

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LEADING candidates for the new commissioner’s role at Humberside Police have locked horns over cuts to police officer numbers.

The force has to save £23m by March 2015 and is planning to cut its workforce by 700, including 440 police officers.

Lord Prescott told students at Wilberforce Sixth Form College, in Hull, the cuts were being made too deep and too fast: “I don’t believe 400 police should be cut out of it. I have to produce an alternative. Plan A isn’t on – Plan B is.”

But retired Humberside Police Chief Supt Paul Davison said resources could be used more efficiently and branded a decision not to send officers to a bonfire on Beverley Westwood last night, which is expected to attract 10,000 people, as “ridiculous”.

He said: “The worst thing you could invent is the email; get those officers out into the streets – if you do that the cuts would be irrelevant.”

Mr Davison, who retired from a 30-year career in July, added: “With the same number of resources I attended 40 per cent of the crime that wasn’t attended in other places. My officers detected 10 times more crime by going down physically to the scene of the crime.”

Former Tory MP Walter Sweeney, 63, who is standing as an independent, had already clashed with Lord Prescott, saying they didn’t need “worn out septugenerian politicians” – which drew a waspish retort from the former Labour Hull East MP, who countered: “What, young guys like you?”

Mr Sweeney said: “Lord Prescott wants to ignore the advice of the outgoing police authority to balance the books. Surely that’s the first responsibility of any police and crime commissioner.”

But Lord Prescott insisted the cuts did not need to be made “this fast”.

Bookmakers are rating Lord Prescott as the clear front runner in next Thursday’s elections, with the odds now standing at one to three. William Hill said the odds on Mr Davison had shortened to seven to two from six to one.

Students yesterday were divided. Jasmine Mulligan, at 16 too young to vote, said she preferred Lord Prescott as a “community person”. But for Nick Barnes, 19, the best man for the job was Paul Davison. He said: “He is from a council estate in Hull, he knows the police, he knows what needs doing.”

Chief vows to build on Bettison legacy : Page 7.