The Home Secretary has defended cuts in police funding that could force West Midlands Police to lose 1,200 officers.
Theresa May refused to rule out claims that the force could lose 400 officers in the next 12 months alone. But she insisted police would achieve just as much with lower numbers, because the Government was cutting the bureaucracy they had to deal with.
Ms May was quizzed in the House of Commons following the announcement that police funding will be cut by 20 per cent in real terms by 2014-15.
The Government has not yet revealed how the cuts will affect individual constabularies, but forces such as West Midlands Police, which currently receive extra money to deal with the effects of deprivation, may be hit hardest.
Jack Dromey (Lab, Erdington) said up to 2,000 jobs could go, including police officers and civilians.
He asked Ms May: “Will she give a straight answer ... and confirm that 2,000 jobs will go in the West Midlands police service, including those of 400 police officers in Birmingham - 40 for each of Birmingham’s 10 constituencies - and does she share my constituents’ fears that, as police numbers fall, crime will go up?”
Bob Ainsworth (Lab Coventry North East) asked why forces in wealthier areas, where crime was lower, would receive lower budget cuts.
“Why is low-crime Surrey getting a far lower rate of cuts than the West Midlands? I thought we were all in this together.”
And Ed Balls, Labour’s new shadow Home Secretary, focused on the West Midlands in his first Parliamentary questions to the Home Secretary in his new role.
He asked: “The accountancy firm KPMG has estimated that 18,000 police officers will lose their jobs, and the Police Federation says 20,000, which would mean that 1,200 officers would be lost in the West Midlands alone in the next four years.
“Given the impact these cuts will have in the West Midlands and across the country, does the Home Secretary agree with these estimates of deep cuts to front-line policing, or does she think that KPMG and the Police Federation have got their sums wrong?”
Ms May said: “The fight against crime is not simply a matter of the number of police officers, but about how effectively they are deployed and what they are doing.
"What the Government are doing by releasing police officers from the bureaucracy imposed by the last Labour Government will make them freer and more available to be out there on the streets doing the job the public want them to do.”
She added: “I spoke to Chris Sims, the chief constable of West Midlands Police, just under a fortnight ago.
"He reassured me, as he has also done publicly, that he remains absolutely confident that West Midlands Police will continue to protect and serve people in the West Midlands in the way they expect.”