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May has questions to answer

Unions and Labour concerned over impact of emergency services cuts
Ryan Fletcher, Tuesday, June 6th, 2017

Trade unions and Labour have said that Theresa May has questions to answer over cuts to emergency and police services while she was home secretary.


Sadiq Khan also this morning warned that the Tories’ planned cuts to policing would make it harder to prevent future terror attacks from happening in the capital.


“I have ensured that our police service has the resources they need to carry out the investigation into this horrific attack – however, I’m deeply concerned about the impact of the further police cuts that the Conservatives have already outlined,” said Sadiq.


“Our city has suffered two awful terrorist attacks since I was elected as Mayor – and we must do everything possible to stop there being anymore,” he added.


Representatives from Unite, PCS, UNISON, the FBU, TSSA and RMT joined shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer in questioning Theresa May’s record as home secretary, when she presided over the loss of 20,000 police officers.


The meeting came after Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn described the cuts as ‘appalling’.


“The cuts in police numbers during her time at the Home Office are appalling and that has to be challenged,” he said.


The union representatives said cuts to emergency services – including firefighters, ambulance staff and civilian police staff – under May have had a ‘very real impact’, but were clear that only the attackers bear responsibility for the atrocities.


PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka highlighted the reduction in the number of Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs), who he said were vital to building links with communities and intelligence gathering.


He said, “Police Community Support Officers in London have seen the most swingeing cuts, with numbers reduced from 4,607 to just 1,487.


“They used to go round in pairs for security reasons and can now only go round on their own.”


Unite national officer Fiona Farmer pointed to cuts in the number of 999 call handlers, dog handlers and forensics officers, saying that “frontline police officers are now having to step in to take on some of this work.”


She also said low pay has made it difficult to recruit police support staff.

Farmer said, “People can earn more working for Vodafone and other call centres than they can working as police support staff.


“You can only imagine the difference between having to deal with a member of the public who can’t quite get their phone to work or dealing with one of the calls that someone had to pick up over the weekend.”


Manuel Cortes, general secretary of the TSSA, which represents British Transport Police staff, said the Tories had shown a ‘callous disregard’ for public safety.


He said, “These cuts are having an effect on all our members’ ability to do their job. Would we be more secure if we had 20,000 more police officers on our streets? I think the simple answer to that is yes.”


Unison’s Ben Priestley said it was right to speak out about the budget cuts.

He said, “We’re all sensitive to the victims and their families and friends. But it must be right that we are able to examine what the impact of the cuts has been.


“Our members have been trying to get that story across for a long, long time. It’s a real shame it’s taken these events to throw some of these cuts into relief, but I think that debate has got to happen.”


In November 2015, when Theresa May was home secretary, Unite issued a public safety warning over ‘catastrophic’ cuts to emergency services staff in the West Midlands. A total of 2,500 jobs will be cut in the West Midlands by 2020, including 82 per cent of PCSOs.


Speaking on Monday, the Prime Minister refused to say she was wrong to make the cuts and insisted that counter terrorism budgets have been preserved.


However The Times newspaper has obtained Home Office documents that show budget cuts to the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism.


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