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Cameron should popularise the idea of "police hours on the streets" to counter Labour's populism on police numbers

By Tim Montgomerie
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I'm impressed with Cameron's stamina. He's been on his feet for 165 minutes, answering questions from MPs. Apparently that's a record. 160 questions answered in 165 minutes. Every MP will press release their questions and his answers... so that's a lot of local newspaper coverage.

Throughout that time he was pounded by Labour MPs on the question of police numbers. My guess is that, unfortunately, they'll have the public on their side.

The Prime Minister, like the Home Secretary, is making the perfectly reasonable argument that budget cuts do not necessarily need to lead to a reduction in police numbers or frontline capacity. Policing minister Nick Herbert has set out the kind of economies necessary to protect policing capacity. I use the term "policing capacity" because "police numbers" should not be the only measure of "police impact". You could have a reduction in police numbers but still have an increase in frontline presence if you got fewer police officers out on to the streets a lot more.

I think Cameron needs to find a better way of making this argument.

He and the Home Secretary need to introduce and popularise the concept of Police Hours On The Streets. This would be a better measure of police impact than police numbers. I understand from experts that the data wouldn't be difficult to compile and it would be a new way of holding constabularies to account.

That would be a way of presenting the existing policy in a better way.

The PM could go further by forcing police chiefs to maintain police numbers. It wouldn't be localist but the Home Secretary could order Chief Constables to maintain police numbers and cut deeper into bureaucracy.


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