Sunday, August 14, 2011

UK gov't, police into blame game over riots

As London returns to normal after 4-days of rioting, the British government and senior police officials are disagreeing over who is most to blame for failing to stop the social unrest.

Police officers claim that budget cuts reduced their manpower, hampering their efforts to restore order. But

Prime Minister David Cameron insists the cuts would not hit frontline officers. Yang Wei-han has more.

The British government's austerity measures will slash 80 billion pounds from public spending by 2015 to reduce the country's swollen budget deficit.

Police budgets are also on the list.

London Mayor Boris Johnson broke with the government, saying such cuts were wrong and that people neeed to se police out on the streets.

Johnson said, "The case I make to government and I'm going to continue to make is that (police) numbers matter. And I think that the numbers we've got on the streets of London now, they are up on when I came in, but it's vital that we keep them high."

Chief of British Transport Police echoed Johnson's statement.

Andy Trotter, chief constable of British Transport Police said, "We've got to be sensible in the way we do it, but we cannot pretend that the scale of cuts that we face will not impact upon the front line of policing, it is simply not possible."

Cameron's Conservative Party, faces pressure to scrap plans to cut spending on the police, as well as calls for more funding in Britain's deprived inner cities. In the short term, Cameron and his 15-month-old coalition government look to have been damaged by the riots.

But an election does not have to be called until 2015, giving him breathing space and time for a nuanced reponse.

However, Cameron may run into conflict with his Lib Dem coalition partners if he responds to the riots only by cracking down on law and order while ignoring social problems that may lie behind the unrest.

And further outbreaks of rioting could be fatal to Cameron's chances of retaining power.

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