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Cameron to Stick With Police Budget Cuts as Riot Arrests Mount

Sunday, 14 Aug 2011 09:35 AM

 

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Aug. 14 (Bloomberg) -- U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron said he’ll stick with plans to cut police budgets and headcount following riots across England that have so far led to the arrest of 1,400 people in London alone.

Home Secretary Theresa May, who oversees the police, also said today that cuts can be made without jeopardizing those things the public most want from the force. Still, London Mayor Boris Johnson, a member of Cameron’s Conservative party, said residents of the capital will demand “loads” of officers on the street and that he anticipates a confrontation over funding.

Cameron said the police budget will be cut by an average of 6 percent over the next four years without reducing “visible policing,” the Sunday Telegraph reported, citing an interview. The premier’s defense of the cuts, part of the biggest fiscal squeeze since World War II, comes in the wake of sovereign debt turmoil in Europe and the U.S.’s loss of its top AAA rating.

“I absolutely believe it can be done,” he said, according to the paper. “It’s no good just immediately saying: ‘Well, it’s been a difficult week, so let’s tear up police budgets and let’s give up on that part of dealing with the deficit’.”

May told Sky News that Britain is seen to have a “credible plan” as it seeks to deal with a record deficit and that there must be cuts “across government departments.”

Higher Total

Seventy percent of people polled in a ComRes survey for the Sunday Mirror said London police cuts should be “reversed immediately,” while 13 percent supported the reductions.

ComRes questioned 2,008 adults on Aug. 10 and Aug. 11. A margin of error wasn’t given.

Police numbers in London “have to be static or upwards,” and are set to rise to 32,500 next year, Johnson told Sky News today, about 1,000 more than when he took office in 2008.

Nationwide, the U.K. is on course to cut 34,100 officers, taking numbers back to the 2003 level, according to Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary.

“We will listen to arguments for redeploying out from the back room and making efficiencies,” Johnson said. “In the end, there is going to be an argument about money.”

David Blunkett of the opposition Labour Party, a former Home Secretary, told Sky the budget cuts are bound to lead to fewer officers on the streets.

‘Zero Tolerance’

Riots that began in north London on Aug. 6 spread across the capital and to cities including Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester, Nottingham and Wolverhampton. Of those arrested in the capital, 808 have been charged, while images of suspects posted on the internet have attracted about 7.5 million views, the Metropolitan Police said today in a statement.

Bill Bratton, former police chief in Los Angeles, New York and Boston, said in the Mail on Sunday today that he spoke with Cameron Aug. 12 and agreed to advise on gang-related violence.

The U.K. could consider using injunctions to control gang movement and intervention to prevent crime, and should target “quality of life” offences, Bratton wrote in the article.

“If you don’t deal with those minor crimes, they’re going to grow,” he said. “What also grows is fear, the most destructive element in any civilized society.”

Cameron also said officials need to adopt “zero tolerance” of petty offenses, according to the Sunday Telegraph.

When asked whether Bratton was a candidate to lead the Metropolitan Police, May and Johnson said Britain had enough good candidates to replace Paul Stephenson, who quit as commissioner last month after revelations linked to phone- hacking at News Corp.’s News of the World newspaper.

Hugh Orde, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, said Bratton wasn’t suitable to provide advice given that the U.S. has a different style of policing and higher levels of violence, according to the Independent on Sunday.

“I am not sure I want to learn about gangs from an area of America that has 400 of them,” the paper reported him as saying.

--Editors: Chris Jasper, John Viljoen.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jennifer Ryan in London at jryan13@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Craig Stirling at cstirling1@bloomberg.net

© Copyright 2014 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

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