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Tories promise 8,000 extra police to be funded by hiking cost of visas | Politics News

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Rishi Sunak has pledged to recruit 8,000 new police officers funded by hiking the cost of visas in his latest general election offering.

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

Election latest: Media ‘haven’t been allowed near Sunak’ after D-Day blunder

The announcement comes as the PM reels from a continued backlash over his D-Day snub, dubbed by one Tory commentator as “the biggest gaffe I can remember in politics”.

While Labour is turning its focus to childcare, with a pledge for 100,000 new nursery places, Mr Sunak is kicking off the third week of the election campaign with a promise on law and order as he tries to get back on the front foot.

The plan for more police officers will be funded in part by removing the student discount to the Immigration Health Surcharge and increasing all visa fees by 25%.

This will raise £600m of the £818m it is estimated to cost, with the rest of the money coming from a clampdown on tax avoidance, the party said.

Mr Sunak 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.

He 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.”

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The recruitment drive comes alongside plans to give community police officers extra powers to crack down on so-called zombie knives and use GPS tracking technology to search for stolen phones without a warrant.

These measures were included in the Criminal Justice Bill which was halted when Mr Sunak called the election.

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The Tories said all the extra police will be fully warranted officers, claiming this goes further than Labour’s recruitment plan.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper has set a goal of having an extra 13,000 constables and police and community support officers (PCSOs) under her party’s plans to be “tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime” – a slogan coined by former Labour prime minister Tony Blair.

But the Tories said this means only 3,000 extra full-time police officers, with the rest made up of PCSOs, who don’t have the power to make arrests, as well as 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.

Hiking visa fees and removing the student discount will raise £600m 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 through axing the discount can be spent on wider costs – but it is promised that the funding currently raised by the surcharge will remain earmarked for the NHS.

Ms Cooper dismissed the pledge 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.

Read more:
Labour pledges to create 100,000 extra nursery places in schools

Conservatives planning stamp duty cut for first-time buyers
Labour promises thousands of new prison spaces to ease overcrowding

“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.”

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