Theresa May keeps playing fast and loose with the facts
Theresa May falsely claimed yesterday that crime is at an all-time low - and it is not the first time she has got her facts wrong, says Labour MP Andrew Gwynne.
In recent weeks we’ve become used to Theresa May playing fast and loose with the truth at PMQs.
Remember when she boasted that the NHS Chief Executive had said “it was £8bn that was needed, we’re giving £10bn of extra funding to the NHS.” But he didn’t seem to agree, complaining, “it would be stretching it to say that the NHS has got more than it has asked for.” Last week, Theresa May asserted that, “We have, as we said we would, protected the schools budget.” But the Public Accounts Committee reckon that schools “are now facing the most significant financial pressure since the mid- 1990s”, while the IFS and NAO have warned of real-terms cuts to school spending.
You would think the longest-serving Home Secretary of the modern era might have a firmer grasp of the facts when it came to policing and crime. No such luck. The PM says her Government has “ensured that the police have the resources to do their job”. That’s a bit rich considering there was a £2.3 billion reduction in Government funding for police forces over the last Parliament, with a further £330m real-terms cut since.
Some of her colleagues do not share her rosy view of the future of police funding. Conservative PCCs in Wiltshire, Hampshire, Suffolk, and Cumbria have complained that they face shortfalls even after increasing council tax precepts. While the Tory PCC for Surrey is a bit more blunt, “We are going to be strapped for cash forever. The Tovernment are not in a generous mood, and they never will be.” So much for her boasts at the Dispatch Box that “we’ve actually protected the police budget”.
Theresa May imagines her cuts have had no consequences - she scolded police officers about “scaremongering” over her reckless budget-slashing, saying it was perfectly possible to make savings without affecting neighbourhood policing. In reality, under her watch more than 20,000 officers were lost – 12,000 from the frontline – and over 6,000 PCSOs were given their marching orders.
Meanwhile, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary has warned of an erosion of neighbourhood policing, as some forces ration their responses in the face of cutbacks. And just yesterday the Chief Inspector for Local Policing at the PM’s own force warned that they had to take neighbourhood officers “away from some of the work we would want them to do to cover our response demand”.
Even worse, the Prime Minister had the brass neck to claim that “we see crime at a record low”. Just two months ago the addition of cyber-crime and fraud to official statistics took the overall crime rate to 11.8 million. When she became Home Secretary the figure stood at 9.3 million; maybe this skipped the PM’s attention?
Theresa May likes to boast that her record proves she can deliver. The truth is that all she delivered as Home Secretary was more crime, less coppers, and shrinking budgets as the threats to public safety evolved and multiplied. Only Labour will stand up for people, prioritising neighbourhood policing and bearing down on crime and its causes.
Andrew Gwynne is Shadow Minister Without Portfolio and Labour's campaign and elections chair.
Get the inside track on what MPs and Peers are talking about. Sign up to The House's morning email for the latest insight and reaction from Parliamentarians, policy-makers and organisations.