Top Tory in police chief cuts storm

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A HOME Office minister has been accused of wanting to gag top officers like South Yorkshire’s chief constable Med Hughes from speaking out about spending cuts.

Conservative police minister Nick Herbert provoked outrage after saying “quieter” chief constables were doing the best job of protecting frontline policing. He criticised police chiefs “bursting out into the media” rather than “getting on with the job”.

South Yorkshire chief constable Med Hughes warned earlier this month that a shrinking force, combined with cuts in council services, would mean more crime. He said there would be fewer officers available to tackle serious offences, and said support staff cuts would lead to officers being overburdened.

Mr Herbert did not mention Mr Hughes by name - but his comments have been interpreted as a slap down for South Yorkshire’s top officer.

The minister said: “I am increasingly noting the chief constables from forces who are delivering these savings in a way which actually is protecting the frontline service.

“These are often the quieter chief constables, those not bursting out into the national media to give us the benefit of their latest opinion, but actually are getting on with the job along with their workers.”

Mr Hughes today stuck by his comments.

A South Yorkshire Police spokesman said: “The chief constable respects the Government’s right to set budgets, but he is employed by the people of South Yorkshire who deserve to know what may happen in their community.

“The chief constable stands by his comments and would invite any critics to read the original paper to the police authority, rather than relying on third-hand comment.”

And Sheffield Labour leader Coun Julie Dore demanded Mr Herbert resign over his “disgraceful” comments.

She said: “Instead of arrogantly criticising senior police officers for raising concerns about cuts being too fast and deep, the Government should listen to their warnings and reduce the cuts they are making to the police.

“I would rather have a police chief who tells it as it is than one living in denial.”