Police chief slams coalition cuts


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The Government is "playing fast and loose" with the public's safety by cutting police numbers, the chairman of the federation which represents rank-and-file officers said today.

Paul McKeever, chairman of the Police Federation, told the Labour party conference in Liverpool that the Government's reforms would lead to "unintended consequences and failure", describing ministers' decision to cut the number of officers on the beat as "madness".

In the first speech of a Police Federation chairman to a Labour conference, Mr McKeever said: "It has already been said this morning that the first duty of any government is the safety of its citizens. We believe the Government is playing fast and loose with the safety of the communities we represent.

"It is also worth reflecting as well on the way the Government talks about us that change, reform, cuts have to be forced through quickly, even more quickly, even more radically. But when I heard them speaking about the Vickers report on banking we were told that they had to be introduced slowly, over a number of years, so as to avoid unintended consequences and failure.

"So we have to force through police cuts to have what: unintended consequences and failure."

Mr McKeever said he welcomed today's announcement by shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper that former Scotland Yard chief Lord Stevens would lead an independent review of policing which will shape future Labour policies.

At the end of his speech he received a standing ovation from delegates before Ed Miliband joined him at the front of the stage to shake his hand.

Mr McKeever, a serving sergeant in the Metropolitan Police, said the Government's claims that cuts to the police stood at 6% was wrong and that it was actually somewhere between 26% and 32% when taking into account inflation and the reduction of the council tax precept.

"The cuts are going to be much deeper than were even envisaged by the Government," he said.

"The extraordinary thing to us is that we actually said that we understand that there is a problem with public sector finances. We said we accept there have to be cuts in policing, we have to take our fair share because everybody else is facing in this hall and elsewhere."

Mr McKeever also criticised the Government's plans to force officers to wear their uniform when going to and from work.

The shooting of Pc David Rathband by gunman Raoul Moat showed that officers in uniform often attracted violence and this was unfair on constables dropping their children off at school.

"It's one thing to expect me to put my life on the line on behalf of our communities - I am willing to do that," he said. "But I am not willing to put the lives of my family and my children on the line too."

Mr McKeever added: "We feel greatly unloved, I have to say, and greatly left to our own devices. We believe that the Government doesn't understand us and there is a constant denigration of what it is that we do. We find that disgraceful.

"It troubles us greatly. It troubles us as to what is going to happen when we have those great cuts to police officer numbers and police staff as well. It troubles us that they talk about the back office, the middle office and the front office, but they don't understand truly what it is to work as a team. We don't know where it going to end up.

"This is a really serious time for policing. It is a really serious time for those who joined to serve our communities."

Although police officers are allowed to be members of political parties, they are banned from membership of the BNP, National Front and Combat 18.

The Conservatives criticised Mr McKeever's decision to appear at the Labour Party conference.

Lorraine Fullbrook, a member of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said: "Labour's hypocrisy is just breathtaking. For years they distanced themselves from the Police Federation but in opposition they have courted them with an appearance on their conference's main stage.

"I was disappointed that McKeever, who has complained of politicians 'playing political games', used the platform to attack Government reforms needed to improve policing.

"Although he has previously complained that listening to Ed Miliband you could easily 'believe that Labour had no intention of cutting the police budget', today he seemed to have nothing but praise for his new-found Labour buddies."

A spokeswoman for the Police Federation said Mr McKeever was appearing at the party conference in an "apolitical" capacity.