Andy Burnham says Conservative claims to have presided over a fall in crime while cutting police budgets would be proved false
The shadow home secretary, Andy Burnham, said: ‘Crime hasn’t gone away, it’s moved online’. Photograph: Lynda Bowyer/Demotix/Corbis
Crime figures for England and Wales will double once cyber offences are included in official statistics, the shadow home secretary has said, launching Labour’s police and crime commissioner campaign ahead of May’s elections.
Speaking at a launch event alongside Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in Birmingham, Andy Burnham said that Conservative claims to have presided over a fall in crime while cutting police budgets would be proved false once cyber crime was routinely included in Office for National Statistics crime figures from July.
“Later this year we will have cyber crime added to the crime figures for the first time,” said Burnham. “If you listen to [David] Cameron and Theresa May, they basically say that it’s OK to cut the police because crime is falling … What they don’t say is that crime has been changing. You are now more likely to be mugged online than you are in the street.”
Burnham conceded that incidents of burglary and car theft had fallen in recent years, but said: “Crime hasn’t gone away, it’s moved online, and the figures at the moment don’t show that.”
“[Cyber crime] will be added [to official statistics] later this year and experts predict that it’ll show crime rates doubled,” he said. “This cannot be the moment that you say it’s safe to cut the police, and that’s not even mentioning the terror threat that the country faces as well.”
The Office for National Statistics will be adding a new module to its the official crime survey of England and Wales in March, with the results due out on 21 July. To develop the new questions a large-scale field trial was carried out between May and August 2015. Preliminary results from this field trial showed a 107% increase in crime when cybercrime was included.
Shadow policing minister, Jack Dromey, said: “For the last five years the alibi of the government has been, we cut police, but we cut crime. Now the truth will be told. They’re cutting police, but crime is rising.”
Labour currently has 13 police and crime commissioners across the country and is hoping to win more in this May’s elections, with an anti-austerity message that opposes cuts to the police force.
In his November spending review, the chancellor, George Osborne, said it was “not the time for further police cuts” and that police budgets were to be protected in real terms, following speculation that he would announce major cuts.
The home secretary, Theresa May, told parliament that police service budgets would be maintained only if commissioners took full advantage of new powers to raise precepts – the money given to police through council tax – prompting opposition MPs to accuse her of making voters “pay more for less”.
“The role of the police and crime commissioner is vital in a changing world,” Corbyn told supporters in Birmingham’s Perry Common, which falls within Dromey’s constituency of Erdington.
“We face so many new threats today we must do all we can to ensure there is proper protection. Labour was not necessarily in favour of the establishment of the police and crime commissioner role at first and we made that very clear, but it is a position that is there.”
“If we had won the election, there would have been a very strong case to save the money that is being spent on PCCs and reinvest it elsewhere,” said Burnham. “We didn’t, obviously, win the election … and PCCs will be here for the foreseeable future, so let’s embrace the role.”