Police commissioner accuses Theresa May of ignoring Northumbria Police crisis

Home Secretary Theresa May refuses to meet Northumbria police commissioner Vera Baird on a visit to the North East

Police Commissioner Vera Baird,

The Home Secretary has been accused of ignoring the impact of North East police cuts after snubbing calls for a face-to-face meeting during a visit to the region.

Theresa May is due in Northumberland this week in a visit which critics say will see more political campaigning than budget talks.

It emerged last night that Northumbria police commissioner Vera Baird had seen attempts to meet Mrs May turned down despite the force facing some of the toughest budget cuts in the UK.

The commissioner said she had hoped to raise with Mrs May the cause of a recent rise in crime, said to be as a result of people ”stealing food and nappies”.

But instead of a chance to make the case for a reduction in the budget cuts causing a drop in police numbers, Mrs May’s office told the commissioner there would be no talks, instead asking if they can visit a Northumberland police station for a photo opportunity without the commissioner.

Mrs Baird told the Journal: “Since the Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review in 2010, Northumbria Police has lost £58m from its budget and the force is having to make a further additional £46m savings by 2017.

“I wrote to the Home Secretary in January 2013 asking her to pay us a visit, when she could, so we could show her the impact of these cuts, unfortunately I did not get a reply. The next thing we knew was that she was arriving in Northumberland this week, however, she does not have time to meet with me.

Oli Scarff/PA Wire Home Secretary Theresa May
Home Secretary Theresa May
 

“I am told it is just a brief stopover on the way to Edinburgh but she does want to go to a Northumberland police station and she also has a meeting in a pub.

“This is an unprecedented level of budget cuts which I have described as both relentless and unfair.

“I’m extremely conscious that the people living in this region have felt the effects of the global and national economic downturn very acutely and I did want an opportunity for myself and the Chief Constable to speak to the Home Secretary so that we could be sure that she fully understands what her government is doing to our region.”

Across the Northumbria force area the cuts have already cut deep. The force is looking to close 12 stations in the latest round of savings, with cuts from 2010 to 2017 worth around £104m.

As a result, an extra 200 police jobs will go, adding to the 171 officers already not replaced at the force and 230 more staffing jobs will go.

While chief constable Sue Sim has promised to make sure front line policing is not hit, commissioner Mrs Baird has revealed to her policing scrutiny panel that crime is going up.

Mrs Baird said the rise, which started in the autumn, was the result of “new entrants” who found themselves needing to steal for basic goods, most likely as a result of Government changes to the welfare system.

Government crime figures though show crime was down 19% in the 12 months up to September 2013.

That direct assault on the Government’s welfare and public safety record has made Mrs Baird few friends in Government. Last night there was a suggestion the Home Secretary may eventually take the time to speak to Mrs Baird on the phone, but would not be heading to Northumbria headquarters to hear officers or the commissioner make their cash case.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The Home Secretary is very happy to discuss the Police and Crime Commissioner’s concerns. Although they are unable to meet in person on Friday, she has offered to speak to her as soon as possible – and the Policing Minister Damian Green already has a meeting scheduled with Mrs Baird for when he visits Northumbria Police the week after next.

“Like all parts of the public sector, the police must play their part in helping to tackle the deficit - but they will still have the resources to do their important work. Our reforms are working and, combined with the hard work of officers across Northumbria, police recorded crime in the force area is down by 19% under this government.”

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