Bob Ashford slams Tory-led Government’s cuts to frontline police – 141 officers to go from Avon and Somerset

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) independently assesses police forces and policing across activity from neighbourhood teams to serious crime and the fight against terrorism – in the public interest. Its latest report – Policing in Austerity –  provides grim reading for residents of Avon and Somerset as officer numbers will be reduced by 141.

Bob Ashford, Labour’s Police and Crime Commissioner candidate for Avon and Somerset responded quickly: “The Chief Constable, the police, police support services and the Police authority have done a tremendous job in the face of these 20% cuts to the policing budget and this is outlined in the HMIC report.

However, we are still looking at a significant reduction in frontline policing and support staff and a heavy reliance on financial reserves to reduce the impact of these draconian cuts. The Tory-led Government is cutting our local police, making it harder not easier to fight crime. The Tory Police and Crime Commissioner candidate in Avon and Somerset will no doubt defend these cuts to policing his government is introducing–  at Somerset County Council he was renowned for cutting services. He is failing to stand up for the police and for our communities.”

Kerry McCarthy, Labour MP for Bristol East whose constituency is in Avon and Somerset said, “David Cameron said frontline policing would not be hit by his huge 20% cuts to our force, but the truth is that 141 frontline officers are being cut in Avon and Somerset alone. Neighbourhood officers, 999 response and traffic police are being cut right across the country.

The blame for these cuts lies squarely with the Tory-led Government. Our Chief Constable has been put in an impossible decision by this Government’s decision to cut police funding by 20%. “We recognise savings need to be made, but the Government has doubled Labour’s cuts to police funding, and made the steepest cuts in the first two years. That’s not an attack on waste, that’s an attack on the police.”

Yvette Cooper MP, Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary, gave the national picture: “This report shows frontline policing is being badly hit – breaking the promises the Prime Minister made and taking unfair risks with community safety. Thousands of officers being lost from emergency response and neighbourhood teams. And HMIC are clear it is likely to get even worse. The Metropolitan Police have a funding gap of £233m, meaning more officers are set to be lost.

This Government has been trying to spin its way out of the damning evidence on police cuts for far too long. It is clear the Tory-led Government is cutting too far and too fast into policing – cutting the very police officers that people want to see out on the streets protecting the public. “They need to change course and accept Labour’s argument and the expert evidence that a 12% reduction in police spending would be manageable, but 20% is hitting frontline services.

The Tory-led Government has no strategy to cut crime, only to cut police officers. Chaotic changes to national policing, undermining police morale and reductions in police powers alongside the scale of cuts are doing serious damage to policing. Today’s report into last year’s riots shows the number of police on the streets really mattered. Yet instead of working with the police to prevent any repetition of last year’s riots, the Government has made it harder by cutting the officers they need.”  Policing in austerity: One year on,