POLICE officers are taking part in a protest march today (Thursday) against government cuts which they say threaten to “compromise public safety”.

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More than 450 off-duty police officers from across Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire, including more than 60 from Stevenage, have taken to the streets of London to join thousands of colleagues from across England and Wales in highlighting the consequences 20 per cent cuts will have on public safety.

The march, organised by the Police Federation of England and Wales, began at Millbank, passing the Home Office, Parliament Square, Whitehall and Trafalgar Square, and will finish at Waterloo Place.

According to Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, the police service nationally will lose more than 16,000 warranted officers over the next four years; £163 million is being taken from police pay this year alone; pension contributions have been increased and a two-year pay freeze has been imposed.

Sgt Crawford Gillan, chair of Bedfordshire Police Federation, said: “The number of officers giving up their rest day or taking holiday to travel to London demonstrates their anger and concern that these recommendations, and the budget cuts, will damage the very core of policing.

“The march in London isn’t just about police officers’ pay, their conditions of service or their pensions. It is also about the large financial cuts to the police budget. It’s about fewer police officers on the streets of Bedfordshire. It’s about the privatisation of the police service and the end of policing by consent. Policing by the people and for the people will be replaced by policing for profit.

“In the past year alone, we have lost over 60 police officers from the frontline and we are witnessing chief officers struggling to cope with budget cuts.

“The Government and the public need to be realistic about the outcome of severe cuts to policing; we cannot afford to compromise on public safety.”

Detective Constable Karen Stephens, who works in Stevenage and is taking part in the protest march, said: “This is an attack on the excellent police service which is, time and time again, quoted to be the best in the world.

“It’s not just the police that will suffer from these cuts - the public will be the victims in this.”

* Public sector workers are taking part in a 24-hour UK-wide strike today (Thursday) over pension changes.

Under the proposed changes, unions are saying its members will have to pay more and work longer for lower pensions.

Among those striking are civil servants, NHS workers and border force staff.

* Are you involved in the strike? Call the Comet newsdesk on 01438 866200 or email editorial@thecomet.net

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