28/09/2011 10:44 BST | Updated 28/11/2011 05:12 GMT

Police Cuts: Coalition Playing 'Fast And Loose With Public's Safety' Federation Chief Says

The Government is "playing fast and loose" with the public's safety by cutting police numbers, the chairman of the federation which represents rank-and-file officers has said.

Paul McKeever, chairman of the Police Federation, told the Labour party conference in Liverpool that the Government's reforms would lead to "unintended consequences and failure", describing ministers' decision to cut the number of officers on the beat as "madness".

In the first speech of a Police Federation chairman to a Labour conference, Mr McKeever said: "It has already been said this morning that the first duty of any government is the safety of its citizens. We believe the Government is playing fast and loose with the safety of the communities we represent.

"It is also worth reflecting as well on the way the Government talks about us that change, reform, cuts have to be forced through quickly, even more quickly, even more radically. But when I heard them speaking about the Vickers report on banking we were told that they had to be introduced slowly, over a number of years, so as to avoid unintended consequences and failure."

Mr McKeever said he welcomed the announcement by shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper that former Scotland Yard chief Lord Stevens would lead an independent review of policing which will shape future Labour policies.

He said the Government's claim that cuts to the police stood at 6% was wrong and that it was actually somewhere between 26% and 32% when taking into account inflation and the reduction of the council tax precept.

"The cuts are going to be much deeper than were even envisaged by the Government," he said. "This is a really serious time for policing. It is a really serious time for those who joined to serve our communities."

The Conservatives criticised Mr McKeever's decision to appear at the Labour Party conference. 

Lorraine Fullbrook, a member of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said: "Labour's hypocrisy is just breathtaking. For years they distanced themselves from the Police Federation but in opposition they have courted them with an appearance on their conference's main stage.

"I was disappointed that McKeever, who has complained of politicians 'playing political games', used the platform to attack Government reforms needed to improve policing."