Today’s vote on policing is a choice between a Tory plan to cut 1,000 more police officers next year and a Labour plan of reform and savings to protect the frontline so that Chief Constables can stop those 1,000 officers being cut.
The Home Secretary should be straining every sinew to protect the frontline, but she isn’t. Theresa May and the Tories just don’t get the pressures public services are under. And they are turning their backs on the obvious savings that could keep those much needed police on our streets.
Theresa May says it doesn't matter that thousands more police officers are set to go - on top of the 16,000 police already lost - under her plans because crime is falling. But the truth is that crime is changing and pressure on the police is going up.
Car crime and theft have been falling for twenty years. But violent crime is increasing. Online crime has shot through the roof. And the terrorist threat has increased - with Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley, the national anti terror lead warning that he needs more resources to respond.
At the same time the police are struggling to deal with ever more complex crimes. Reports of rape and domestic violence are up, yet the number of prosecutions and convictions are down. Reports of child sexual abuse are up 33%, but referrals to the CPS from the police have gone down 11% and there are serious delays in investigating online child abuse. That means victims are finding it harder to get justice and more criminals and abusers are walking away scott-free.
Even in basic responsibilities such as road safety, the police are being over stretched. The number of police on our roads, and the number of driving offence penalties have fallen substantially, but the number of casualties and fatalities has gone up.
Neighbourhood policing is being badly undermined. Already many forces are taking most of their officers off the beat, putting them back into their cars, forced to deal only with emergency response rather than building community partnerships, intelligence and crime prevention.
Now Theresa May wants a similar scale of cuts all over again - with ACPO warning that at least 16,000 more officers will go. Next year, police forces are already expecting to cut over 1,000 officers - and that's what today's vote is all about.
Labour would take an alternative approach. Yes budgets will be tight, and we've already said that the 2015/16 budgets the Government has set will have to be our starting point, because George Osborne's failure to get strong growth in this Parliament means more still needs to be done to get the deficit down.
But there are alternative ways to make savings that Theresa May has rejected. Our Zero-Based Review has already set out how the Home Office can make savings within the police budget so that forces have more to spend on the frontline.
For a start, we would require forces to sign up to national procurement - saving £100m in the first year. Theresa May has the power to do this but she has refused, promoting instead the idea of 43 different forces and Police and Crime Commissioners arguing over 43 different contracts on everything from riot from riot shields to handcuffs. Basic savings that the private sector and much of the rest of the public sector have already made just haven't happened in policing - much to the frustration of the National Audit Office, the police inspectorate, and police officers across the country.
And why should the police still have to subsidise gun licences? Astonishingly gun licences cost less than fishing licences, and police forces lose £20 million as a result. Yet David Cameron has personally blocked any change. A further £9 million could be raised from driver offender retraining courses. And it’s time to scrap Police and Crime Commissioners, saving £50 million from next year's elections alone.
All these things Theresa May could do right now, saving Chief Constables the money they need to stop those 1,000 police officers being cut even at a time when the overall budget is being squeezed. Had she done so, we could have supported her plans.
But she has refused. Without those policies in place, we will not support the Tories plans to cut 1000 extra police, and we will oppose their failure to reform. That is why we are voting against Theresa May's plans today and why we will be challenging Tory candidates in every corner of the country on why they are voting to cut hundreds more officers from their local force next year.
The Tories are turning their backs on neighbourhood policing, just as they are turning their backs on the NHS. Taking us back to the 1930s as the Tories want won't work when we face new challenges from cyber crime, terrorism or emerging child abuse and exploitation. And communities want the neighbourhood policing that has helped cut local crime and keep them feeling safe. That's why even when budgets are tight, Labour will set out the reforms we need to better protect the frontline, and stand up for communities who depend on our public services.