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Human cost to 'government's failure' to fund police service adequately

Policing Minister told Conservative MPs would be "crying bloody murder" if they were in opposition and another party was presiding over current situation.

The "thin blue line is stretched" the policing minister admitted as he faced accusations the government has failed to keep the public safe.

Nick Hurd said the government recognised forces were stretched and said that was why it had put £450 million of new investment into the policing system.

But shadow policing minister Louise Haigh earlier claimed "ideological cuts" had left the public exposed to "rising crime and a rising terrorist threat".

As MPs debated a motion on police funding, Labour's Ruth George (High Peak) said it was "not fair" to leave police so overstretched, telling the minister: "The thin blue is stretched far too thin."

Mr Hurd replied: "The thin blue line is stretched, the government recognises that, which is why we brought forward a funding settlement that will see at least £450 million of new investment in our police system, that will see us investing as a country more than a billion pounds more than we did in 2015/16 in our police system."

He also told MPs there was "absolutely no doubt" that police are busier than ever.

"Recorded crime has increased significantly," he said, but added most of the growth was down to both police getting better at recording crime and more victims of hidden crime coming forward with allegations.

"For far too long victims of domestic abuse, sexual abuse, rape, modern slavery, have not stepped forward in part because they didn't trust the system."

Moving the motion, which calls on the Government to take steps to increase officer numbers by 10,000 and fulfil the counter-terrorism policing requirements, Ms Haigh said: "The government has failed. They have failed in the most fundamental duty of any government: to keep its citizens safe and free from harm.

"Their ideological cuts have left the public exposed to rising crime and a rising terrorist threat and they are letting down millions of victims as the crimes against them go uninvestigated and unsolved."

Ms Haigh said Conservative MPs would be "crying bloody murder" if they were in opposition and another party was presiding over the current "enormous rise" in crime.

She cited work by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and said thousands of emergency calls are waiting in queues with not enough officers to respond.

Ms Haigh added: "Some victims facing an emergency get no response at all.

"Police have yet to assess the risk for over 3,300 individuals on the sex offenders register. We simply do not know whether those individuals are a threat to the public.

"And there is a shortage of over 5,000 investigative officers as unsolved crimes rose to 2.1 million last year.

"What is most striking about this assessment is the problems facing the police are so clearly a result of having too few officers and staff to meet too high a demand."

Ms Haigh also said: "If the government was in opposition and facing the rising crime that is taking place in our country now they would be crying bloody murder because not only is there an economic cost, but there's a human cost to the enormous rise in crime we have seen as a result of the government cuts to the police.

Labour MP David Drew (Stroud), intervening, said small shop and retail crime is a "hidden" area, noting: "It's virtually impossible to get a police officer where there has been goods stolen to go to the scene of crime.

"This is hidden and it's resulted in many smaller shops going out of business."

Labour's non-binding motion was approved by 203 votes to zero, majority 203. Conservative MPs did not take part in the vote, which was forced by the Opposition.

Theresa May was officially rebuked for misleading MPs and the public over false claims the government is providing an extra £450m in funding last week. 

The chair of the UK Statistics Authority, Sir David Norgrove, ruled the claim made by May repeatedly at prime minister’s questions last month “could have led the public to conclude incorrectly” that the government was providing an extra £450m for police spending over the next financial year.