Labour leader Ed Miliband has urged voters to treat elections for US-style police and crime commissioners as a referendum on the “wisdom” of Government cuts to the frontline.
Mr Miliband launched his party’s campaign ahead of elections for 41 new police figureheads across England and Wales, including one for Devon and Cornwall.
Labour last month announced Plymouth councillor Nicky Williams had been selected by party members in the two counties to run as the party’s candidate.
Former military commander Tony Hogg will stand for the Conservatives.
At the launch in London yesterday, Mr Miliband criticised deep cuts to force budgets.
Government cuts, including the loss of the rural policing grant, will leave Devon and Cornwall with just 2,802 officers – a level last seen in the 1980s – from a recent high of 3,500. Some 500 civilian support jobs will also be axed.
He said: “We believe that the British people deserve policing that reflects their values.
“These are the issues that our candidates will be campaigning on. Keeping police on the streets. Police preventing crime not just responding to it. And the core job of policing done not by private companies, but by the police.
“We warned the Government about the dangers of their cuts to frontline policing. These elections must be a referendum on the wisdom of decisions which will see at least 15,000 officers lost by 2015.”
Mr Miliband also called for G4S to be blocked from getting new Government contracts in the wake of the Olympics security shambles.
The Labour leader said no more deals should be signed until a review had been carried out to ensure the firm was fit to provide services.
Conservative policing minister Nick Herbert hit back. He said: “This was a deeply cynical speech by Ed Miliband. He claimed neighbourhood policing is being cut; Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary confirm that actually, neighbourhood policing is being increased by forces.
“Second, he said that there is nothing wrong with the police using the private sector but that people want ‘bobbies on the beat, not G4S’. That is precisely the Government’s position.
“Third, he said that police and crime commissioners should have a role in deciding the use of the private sector. But that already is the position – yet he also confirmed that Labour still oppose police and crime commissioners.”
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