may's forgotten promises over police numbers

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Theresa May and the Conservative Party have been facing increasing scrutiny over substantial cuts to police budgets which has resulted in 20,000 fewer police officers in England and Wales since 2010.  May responded to criticism from a serving police officer in a television debate last night arguing:

“It's not just about the numbers of police - people often focus on the numbers of police. It's actually about what the police are able to do and how they are being deployed on our streets.”

However in two separate election campaigns, Ms. May and other senior Conservative politicians have criticised Labour and argued for increasing the number of police officers.

As an opposition MP in 2001, May attacked Labour for a falling number of police officers nationally. She wrote on her official website:

“And how many people worry about crime? Yet as the rate of violent crime has gone up, under Labour police numbers have fallen by over 1,600 nationally.”

She promised the Conservatives would fix the problem:

“As Conservatives we are committed to cutting taxes and improving our public services… We will restore police numbers to where they were when we left Government.”

Remarkably, the extent of cuts to police officers since Theresa May took over as home secretary have been so significant that the current numbers are lower than when the Conservatives left office in 1997.

A freedom of information request revealed that by March 31st 1997 there were 125,051 full-time  equivalent police officers. As of 2016, the number of police officers was down to 124,066, meaning that there’s 1,005 fewer police officers now than in 1997.

Then during the 2005 election campaign, the Conservative party went even further. At a joint press conference, then shadow secretary for the family Theresa May was stood alongside shadow home secretary David Davis as he announced a Conservative Party measure to add another 5,000 police officers if the Conservatives won office. Davis argued:

“First, the key to cutting crime is more police. And that is why when I become Home Secretary I will recruit an extra 5,000 police officers each year.”

This was despite there already being 141,060 police officers in England and Wales in March 2015 - nearly 22,000 more than current levels.

Theresa May was Home Secretary for six years from 2010 up until July 2016 when she became Prime Minister, and was responsible for overseeing domestic security and the police force. In 2015, upon announcing further cuts in funding for police, she was attacked by the Police Federation who warned this would impact their ability to keep the public safe. May responded by accusing them of ‘scaremongering’ and ‘crying wolf’.

Her comments come in the wake of the British Army being deployed to the streets of Britain to ease the pressure on police forces, following the terrorist attack in Manchester outside an Ariana Grande concert last week which killed 22 people.