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Boris Johnson promises 20,000 extra officers within three years as PM

Leadership frontrunner unveils £1.1bn spending pledge for policing to reverse 'austerity years' of Theresa May
Published - 04/07/2019 By - Nick Hudson - Police Oracle

Policing jumped to the top of the Tory leadership race agenda yesterday as Boris Johnson pledged to find £1.1 billion to boost officer numbers by 20,000 in three years if he becomes Prime Minister.

Frontrunner Johnson said the move – to swell the service to more than 140,000 officers by mid-2022 if he wins the race for Number 10 – was needed because “more police on our streets means more people are kept safe”.

He promised to reverse the cuts to policing numbers made while Theresa May was Home Secretary and concentrate resources on rural areas, which have seen the biggest reductions in police funding.

The policy is directly at odds with Mrs May’s insistence that rising crime is not linked to the reduction in police numbers.

Officer numbers in England and Wales have dropped by more than 20,000 since 2009 with Home Office figures showing a reduction from 144,353 to 122,395 in 2018.

Asked if it had been a mistake by the Tories to cut numbers, Mr Johnson said: “The vital thing is to get officers out on the streets.

“We want to make sure we keep the numbers high, and we keep visible frontline policing and we keep a safer neighbourhood team in every ward and we keep crime coming down.”

  • Showing restraint: It's all in the sleight of hand as Boris Johnson visits Thames Valley Police training centre

The former Cabinet minister said the funds would come from the £26 billion "headroom" reserves set aside by Chancellor Philip Hammond.

The ex-mayor of London, who visited the Thames Valley Police training centre near Reading, Berkshire, on Wednesday, said: "What we are saying is that we are going to use some of the existing headroom, quite a small amount, about £1.1 billion, to put more police officers out on the street and I think that is what the public want."

Pressed on whether he had already pledged the headroom funds for other initiatives, Mr Johnson said: "On the contrary, we have been positively frugal by comparison with a certain other campaign that I could mention.

"We are still well within the £26 billion that the Chancellor squirrelled away quite prudently, the money is going on education, a little bit on broadband – and that is already allocated – and on policing as well."

Mr Hammond has publicly warned Mr Johnson and his rival for Downing Street, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, that a no-deal Brexit would mean the reserve funding would need to be used to deal with the aftermath of withdrawal, and would not be available for spending pledges.

Both Mr Johnson and Mr Hunt have said they would be prepared to exit the EU without a deal on October 31 if they could not get an improved agreement with Brussels.

Mr Johnson found more support on the campaigning trail from a group of Tory police and crime commissioners.

Eleven commissioners signed a letter hailing his “outstanding work” as mayor of London in tackling violence.

“We need a prime minister who has a proven record of reducing crime and who will back police with the power and resources they need,” said the group.

Since the leadership race began for Mrs May’s successor, Mr Johnson has also promised to do away with public sector pay freezes.

His campaign supporter – Health Secretary Matt Hancock – indicated the public sector workers would get a "fair" pay rise under Mr Johnson.

Mr Hancock said: "People in the public sector need to be properly rewarded for the brilliant job they do.

"Higher pay, not higher taxes, means a pay rise for everyone, including in the public sector."

A two-year public sector pay freeze was introduced under David Cameron before rises were capped at one per cent until 2017 under austerity measures.

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