NEW Labour were masters of the soundbite.

In 1993, in the wake of the murder of Liverpool toddler James Bulger, and research that showed the public were becoming increasingly worried about soaring levels of violent offences, Tony Blair caught the mood by pledging to be “tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime”.

The powerful message was that unless the deeper social causes of criminality were tackled, crime would continue to rise. The sloganeering was not always matched by results, but the last 20 years have seen a steady decline in crime.

Loading article content

Earlier this month, however, alarming statistics showed the number of crimes recorded annually in England and Wales had passed the five million mark for the first time in 10 years, rising 13 per cent amid rising violence and an unprecedented terror threat.

Police chiefs fear part of the problem is funding cuts and freezes. Chief Constable Sara Thornton, chair of the National Police Chief’s Council, said this week: “The police service is stretched and our staff are feeling it, and the public is beginning to notice it.”

The chief constable of Northumbria Police recently warned that his force was getting “very, very close” to not being able to deliver a professional service because of budget shortfalls.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd’s responded yesterday by telling police chiefs and commissioners to stop looking to the Government for funding, calling on them to come up with robust plans that protect the public.

Instead of “tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime”, the current government’s message to cash-strapped cops complaining that they can’t make ends meet is “tough”.