Sunak sets out plan for 8,000 more ‘bobbies on the beat’

Rishi Sunak has promised to recruit 8,000 more neighbourhood police officers, paid for by hiking the cost of visas if the Conservatives win the General Election.

The Prime Minister said “more bobbies on the beat” with greater powers would help drive down crime.

The Tories said the plan would be funded in part by increasing visa fees by 25% and making overseas students pay a higher level of immigration health surcharge.

The Prime Minister highlighted the Tory record of recruiting 20,000 officers since 2019, although this matched the number of officers lost during the years of austerity after 2010.

Mr Sunak said: “Our new 20,000 new police officers since 2019 have made a huge difference, with neighbourhood crime down 48% as a result.

“We will now go further by hiring 8,000 more police officers, each one dedicated to their local community.

“People deserve to feel safe in their neighbourhood.

“More bobbies on the beat and increased powers will give police forces the tools they need to drive down neighbourhood crime even further.”

POLICE Recruitment
POLICE Recruitment

The Tories plan to press ahead with extra powers for officers to crack down on so-called zombie knives and use GPS tracking technology to search for stolen phones without a warrant which were included in the Criminal Justice Bill which was halted when Mr Sunak called the General Election.

Labour has set out a goal of having an extra 13,000 constables and police and community support officers (PCSOs) involved in neighbourhood policing.

But the Tories said this means only 3,000 extra full-time police officers, with the rest made up of PCSOs, officers redeployed to neighbourhood teams and volunteer special constables.

Mr Sunak said: “Labour has no plan and no idea how to fund more police officers.”

The Tory policy for England and Wales would see 2,000 extra officers recruited a year, reaching the target of 8,000 in 2027-28.

The total annual cost will reach £818 million in 2029/30, the Conservatives said.

Hiking visa fees and removing the student discount will raise £600 million in 2024/25, the Tories said.

The immigration health surcharge is currently £1,035 a year, but students get a discount and pay £776.

The Conservative plan would amend the law so the extra money raised can be spent on wider costs, but it is promised that the funding currently raised by the surcharge will remain earmarked for the NHS.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper dismissed the plan as “another empty promise from a desperate Tory party”.

“The Tories have repeatedly promised more police on the beat but instead they have cut 10,000 neighbourhood police, 90% of crimes are going unsolved, prisons are in crisis and more than twice as many people now say they never see the police on the beat,” she said.

“Meanwhile the Tories’ funding sums are a fudge that seem to depend on continued high migration which they promised to bring down.

“Labour has a costed and funded plan to put 13,000 more neighbourhood police and PCSOs back on the beat, by cutting back-office waste.”

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Alistair Carmichael said 6,000 crimes were still going unsolved every day.

“The Conservatives have already failed to protect our communities from crime,” he said.

“From slashing community officer numbers into oblivion to funnelling millions into pet projects instead of bobbies on the beat, Conservative ministers have got their priorities all wrong for years.”