THERESA MAY should not need reminding where the public stand on police funding – this issue hit the Prime Minister, and the Tories, towards the latter stages of last year’s election when terrorist outrages in Manchester and London prompted a wider debate about the impact of the Government’s austerity agenda on key services.
Yet, at a time when there’s growing alarm at the number of crimes not even being investigated, Mrs May’s response to Bradford South MP Judith Cummins at Prime Minister’s Questions was complacent in the extreme. Challenged as to why West Yorkshire Police, one of the largest metropolitan forces in the country, had 900 fewer officers than 2010, and was having to contend with a 45 per cent rise in violent and sexual crime in her constituency this year, the Tory leader suggested there was a rise in crimes being reported.
In one aspect, this is true. More victims are coming forward because of those who have put their faith in the criminal justice system – and this is welcome. Yet it’s also counter-intuitive because every emergency call left unanswered, or not treated seriously, leaves people disappointed.
And it’s the same with reports about the financial shortfall in police pensions. Again, Mrs May tried to kick the proverbial political can down the road by suggesting that this is a historic problem. However such matters can’t be ignored by the Government – and next week’s Budget provides a timely opportunity for Ministers to show if they’re on the side of the police. If they don’t, they will be betraying victims and making a mockery of the PM’s recent assertion that austerity is over.