Police line streets of London in cuts protest
POLICE officers took to the streets of London to protest that Government cuts will put public safety at risk.
Around 400 off-duty officers from both Staffordshire and Cheshire forces took part in yesterday's march organised by the Police Federation.
They were among around 20,000 officers protesting over 20 per cent budget cuts and proposals for sweeping reforms of pay, pensions and conditions.
Four coaches, each containing around 50 off-duty or retired Staffordshire Police officers, left the Britannia Stadium at 6am for the capital.
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Staffordshire Police need to save £38 million in four years, while a recruitment freeze will last until 2015 as a result of Government cuts.
Staffordshire Police Federation Secretary Dean Colley pictured below said: "The Government says we have the best police service in the world, but if that's true, why do they feel the need to reform it so heavily and so quickly? It just doesn't add up.
"In 2008, at its height, Staffordshire Police had 2,200 officers. We currently have 1,950, and by 2015 it's likely to drop to 1,750. That's a 20 per cent reduction, and I can't see how that will not affect front-line policing. It will put the safety of Staffordshire residents in jeopardy.
"We are willing to play our part in the austerity measures, but the combination of the reforms to pay and conditions, the 20 per cent cuts, and the changes to pensions, which are affecting all public sector workers, is just too much.
"We had around 270 off-duty officers from Staffordshire taking part in the march, all in their own time. It just shows how strongly we feel about what is happening."
Cuts to police budgets and a Government-commissioned report that recommended allowing officers to be sacked, pay cuts for some and raising the pension age, have all caused concern for the Police Federation.
The Government says the police service cannot be exempt from the cuts in the economic gloom, but has promised the blow will be cushioned by reforms "to create a more skilled and effective workforce to face the challenges of the next 30 years".
According to Home Office proposals those who work harder and learn new skills would be rewarded, while others would be fast-tracked through promotion.
The Federation claims the cuts will mean the loss of 16,000 officers over the next four years, putting the public at increased risk.
Cheshire Police needs to save £34 million from its budget by 2015.
And around 200 Cheshire officers caught a specially-hired train to London yesterday.
Cheshire Police Federation chairman Simon Roberts said: "The turnout was fantastic. Everybody was doing it in their own time and I think we sent a clear message.
"It saddens me that we've had to resort to this, but we do not feel we are being listened to.
"This Government needs to sit up and take note. The same officers who stood defiantly, shoulder to shoulder, to defend the capital against rioters nine months ago have now resorted to marching along its streets to have their collective voice heard.
"The way that this Government is proposing to change the police service in this country will have a devastating effect on the way that our streets are policed.
"This issue is not just about the pay and conditions of the police service, nor whether it is right for an officer to be asked to patrol the streets at 60.
"It is about a fundamental change in the way communities will be policed. "Once it has been broken, which is inevitable if we continue along this path, it will be very difficult to put back in place."
Following the march Mr Roberts and other federation representatives met with Cheshire MPs David Rutley and David Mowat to outline their concerns to the Government.