Home Secretary accused of betraying police

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Indy Politics

The Home Secretary refused to relent on her police cuts today as angry rank and file officers said she had lost their trust.

Theresa May was accused of betraying police and the public over her pledge last year to always fight for forces.

Her annual keynote speech to police leaders from across the country was met with stony silence after she said it was "not my job" to tell them what they wanted to hear.

David Rathband, the Pc blinded by killer Raoul Moat, joined the wave of discontent over pay and conditions as he asked her if she thought his £35,000 wage packet was too much.

Mrs May, sporting trademark brightly-coloured shoes, resiliently insisted the Government would press ahead with the 20% funding slash as officers came forward to voice their anger.

Sarah Adams, a federation member from Derbyshire police, accused Mrs May of failing to deliver on the Conservative manifesto pledge to "always back the police" and "spend more on services which matter most to people".

To rapturous applause and a standing ovation from more than 1,000 officers at the conference in Bournemouth, she said: "Home Secretary, how can you expect police officers and the communities we serve to ever to trust you or this Government again?"

Mrs May said: "I am backing the police. I've shown I'm backing the police."

Anger has been building in frontline policing since former rail regulator Tom Winsor said the most wide-ranging analysis of forces pay in 30 years showed more than £1 billion of savings should be made.

Pc Rathband appeared via videolink to back the federation's claim that policing would go into "meltdown" over the cuts.

The 43-year-old father-of-two asked Mrs May: "I was paid £35,000 last year. Do you think I'm paid too much?"

Mrs May later replied: "I'm not sitting here saying to any individual officer your pay is wrong."

In her speech, Mrs May said it was "simply not true" that the Government was singling out police over the cuts, but insisted changes needed to be made.

"Not all of you will like some of the decisions I have taken," she said.

"And not all of you will like what I have to say. But it's not my job to duck the difficult decisions and to tell you what you want to hear."

She said ministers were taking action to ensure the service was on a "sustainable" footing for generations.

She insisted the Government was "doing everything we can to protect frontline jobs".

Challenged over the amount spent on international aid, Mrs May was greeted with laughter from officers when she said it would help tackle terrorism on the streets of the UK.

"If you get aid right in certain parts of the world, such as Pakistan, it will reduce the possibility of terrorism on the streets of the UK," she said.

Earlier, Mrs May said the solution for the future of the police service was not a Royal Commission, adding that a commission was for when "problems are a long way off".

"We need change in policing now," she said.

The Home Secretary said it would be the "easiest thing in the world" for her to back down and stop the reforms "but it would not be the right thing to do".

She finished her speech, after paying tribute to officers killed on duty, by telling the federation: "You are the finest police officers in the world and I trust you to get the job done."

But no one applauded, in sharp contrast to federation chairman Paul McKeever, who received a standing ovation after criticising Mrs May and the Home Office.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said Mrs May's speech "shows she is still in denial about the damage her policies are causing to police forces and communities across the country".

"The attacks on the police, the weakening of police powers, and the cuts in sentencing for rapists and serious offenders who plead guilty show Theresa May and David Cameron are completely out of touch and taking serious risks on crime," she said.

"The Home Secretary should spend more time focusing on fighting crime than fighting the police."