The elections for a new West Midlands police commissioner will be a referendum over the 20 per cent cuts in crime fighting budgets, Ed Miliband has warned.
The Labour leader was speaking in Quinton as he announced Wolverhampton councillor Bob Jones as his party’s candidate for the Crime Commissioner election in November.
Nechells councillor Yvonne Mosquito, who was Coun Jones’ rival for the post, will be his deputy.
Two key themes for the Labour campaign are the proposed cuts and the controversial privatisation of neighbourhood patrols and other functions seen as core police duties.
An audience of retired police officers, community activists and Labour Party members heard the announcement at the Quinborne Centre in Ridgacre Road where they quizzed Mr Miliband and Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper on crime policy.
Mr Miliband said that had his party been in Government they would not be holding police commissioner elections at a cost of over £100 million, but as a party they ‘must make the best of a bad job’.
“This is an opportunity for people to tell the Government what they think of the 20 per cent cut in policing and I think the Government may end up regretting these elections.
“Let’s make this a referendum on the police cuts.”
Coun Jones, a previous head of the national Police Authority, added: “People are angry about the cuts. A priority will be to fight the scale of the reductions.”
He highlighted differences between the West Midlands where there was a reduction of £27 million in funding last year and Surrey where there has been a £6 million increase.
But he warned: “We will still have to make the books balance.”
Coun Jones was joined by three further Midlands candidates, former MEP Simon Murphy will stand for the West Mercia police role, former work and pensions minister James Plaskitt will contest the Warwickshire role and Stoke-on-Trent councillor Joy Garner is the candidate for Staffordshire.
The meeting heard complaints that neighbourhood policing is already being eroded, as well as a drop in funding for outside organisations who work to tackle young offenders, substance abuse and help victims of crime.
Inspector Paul Hanford, who had recently retired as head of the Quinton neighbourhood police team, said: “We made a huge impact reducing crime and anti-social behaviour. For the first time in 30 years I felt we were making a difference, preventing crime.
“I now see that being cast aside in favour of reactive policing.”
The Conservatives and Lib Dems have yet to select their candidates. For the Tories Solihull councillor Joe Tildesley and former Birmingham councillor Matt Bennett have declared their intention to stand, as has former Lib Dem councillor for Aston, Ayoub Khan.