Election 2015

Election 2015: Labour 'to protect police numbers'

Labour leader Ed Miliband and Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper, with officers from Ollerton Police Station, Nottinghamshire Image copyright PA

Labour is pledging to guarantee neighbourhood policing in every area - and protect the number of officers on the beat - if elected in May.

It says saving £800m over three years, such as by axing elected police and crime commissioners, would allow forces to maintain front-line staff.

Officer numbers in England and Wales fell by more than 16,000 since 2010.

Conservatives say Labour has "wildly overestimated" the possible savings and that crime has fallen despite cuts.

A BBC News survey last month found that every force was preparing for budget cuts, and Labour claims that if the Conservatives are elected more police posts will go.

Labour is setting out plans to legislate for a "local policing commitment", which would ensure forces guarantee neighbourhood policing in every area, and compel forces to save money by sharing support services and ending the police subsidy of gun licences.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: "Neighbourhood policing is far too important to let the Tories destroy it. That's why Labour is setting out a better plan - including abolishing police and crime commissioners and putting savings back into the front line so we can keep police on the beat.

"Under the Tories we've seen fewer police on the beat, longer waits for 999 calls and less justice for victims as there have been fewer arrests and prosecutions for rising crimes like violence, rape or child sex offences."

Crime down

In December, the Home Office confirmed police forces in England and Wales would have their central government funding cut by almost 5% for 2015-16 - a cash reduction of £299m compared with 2014-15.

Home Secretary Theresa May said the government had increased the proportion of officers on the front line.

She added: "When we started to clear up the mess left by their legacy of debt, they warned that crime would rise.

"They were wrong: crime is down by more than a fifth under this government, and has never been lower."

Crime figures fell to record low levels in January, when the official crime survey found there were seven million incidents in the year to September 2014 - down 11% on the previous 12 months.

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