Jeremy Corbyn condemns 'reckless' Tory policing cuts at campaign launch


Jeremy Corbyn is putting frontline community policing at the heart of Labour's police and crime commissioner (PCC) election campaign, saying "reckless" Tory cuts are threatening people's safety.

The party leader said: "We want to return to the principle we introduced as a Labour government on community policing - policing by consent, and that's exactly what our candidates for police and crime commissioners are determined to do."

He added the party wanted to "bring the police to the people to ensure they live safe, secure lives".

Speaking to an audience of party faithful in Birmingham on Thursday and praising existing Labour West Midlands PCC David Jamieson, he said the force had been "leading by example" on reducing stop and search.

Mr Corbyn, in a speech to launch the party's national PCC election campaign, said: "Stop and search should be used very sparingly only if it can be seen to be effective (in the community)."

He acknowledged the party had opposed the creation of PCCs, but said it was now "vital in a changing world where we face so many new threats".

There was criticism of the Conservatives' policing budget cuts, which the party leader said had led to the loss of 18,000 police officers, 12,000 of whom were from the frontline.

Mr Corbyn added: "It is disgraceful that when the police are more vital than ever to keeping people safe, their numbers are being reduced.

"The safety and security of people in this country are being recklessly threatened by the slashing of budgets."

Mr Corbyn, opening the campaign at the Perry Common Community Hall in Erdington, went on to say tackling hate crime or discrimination was at "the very centre of our belief in the Labour Party".

Answering a separate question on mental health, he also called for people "to change the mood music a bit in our society" on the issue. He added: "Let's not stigmatise it."

Shadow home secretary Andy Burnham told party members and candidates that the Conservatives' cuts to policing, fire services and local government were "putting people's safety at risk".

Mr Burnham said: "Tory austerity is tearing a hole in the safety net that should be there to ensure the safety of communities.

"I believe these cuts are putting people's safety at risk.

"They've gone too far and cannot carry on."

He also praised the work of police community support officers.

The pair have been visiting towns and cities across the West Midlands region, during the campaign's roll-out.

Later on during a visit to Willenhall, Mr Corbyn said the Government counter-terrorism strategy Prevent needed scrutiny.

His comments came after three men and a woman from nearby Walsall were convicted of Syria-related terror offences following a trial at the Old Bailey.

Mr Corbyn said: "Terrorism is terrible and obviously people planning to do bad things must be appropriately dealt with but we must realise we have to stop people getting into that place and getting attracted by it."

He added: "Looking at how Prevent is operating and whether or not it doesn't over-effect young Muslims, we should be looking at all the young people - giving them opportunities and looking at the policing measures that go with that."

The party leader also backed a call by victims of the 1974 Birmingham Pub Bombings for West Midlands Police to release all relevant records it holds over the double bombing, which killed 21 people.

He said: "I must say as one involved in the Justice for the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four campaigns I was astonished to find there were still records that haven't been released."