Boris Johnson has upped the stakes in the Tory leadership race once more by pledging to put 20,000 more police officers on the streets over three years.
He wants to use £1.1bn of the £26bn so-called “headroom” reserves put aside by Chancellor Philip Hammond.
The headroom is the difference between the limit Mr Hammond set for the Budget deficit next year and how big the Office for Budget Responsibility thinks it will be.
The chancellor has warned Mr Johnson and his leadership rival Jeremy Hunt that a no-deal Brexit would mean the headroom money would have to be used on dealing with the aftermath of withdrawal from the EU, not on spending pledges.
Mr Johnson has said he will boost the police service to more than 140,000 officers by mid-2022 if he wins the race for Number 10, with a particular focus on rural areas which have seen the biggest reductions in police funding in recent years.
During a visit to the Thames Valley Police training centre in Berkshire he said: “What we are saying is that we are
going to use some of the existing headroom, quite a small amount, about £1.1bn, to put more police officers out on the street and I think that is what the public want.”
He refused to admit that Conservative budget cuts that saw an an 18% reduction in the size of the total police
workforce, between March 2010 and March 2018, were a mistake.
However he appeared to suggest that maybe the cuts had gone too far.
“I think the job of the politician sometimes is to say actually, no, we want to make sure we keep the numbers high, and we keep visible frontline policing and we keep a safer neighbourhood team in every ward and we keep crime coming down,” he said.
Both Mr Johnson and Mr Hunt have made a series of promises on tax cuts and public spending as they try to woo Conservative party members in the race for the leadership.
Mr Johnson has said he will spend extra £4.6bn a year on education by 2022-23, as well as cutting income tax, stamp duty and national insurance contributions and giving public sector workers a pay rise.
Mr Hunt says he will raise defence spending, cut corporation tax, increase the thresholds for national insurance contributions and cut interest on student loans.
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