Morning Call: pick of the papers

The ten must-read comment pieces from this morning's papers.

1. The next election may be a year away, but Osborne is on the campaign trail. It’s a risky strategy (Independent)

A party’s pre-election "tax and spend" plans can withstand scrutiny for six months but not for a year and a half, says Steve Richards.

2. Minimum wage rise could be a Tory winner (Times)

Cameron needs a surprise move to rebuild his party’s image, writes Rachel Sylvester. It may come with a boost for the low paid.

3. Young should blame bad luck not policy (Financial Times)

The baby boomers enjoyed almost miraculously benign circumstances that will not be repeated, writes Janan Ganesh.

4. George Osborne's cuts are a squeeze too far (Guardian)

Cuts on the scale the chancellor is suggesting would be extreme – and they are not necessary, says IFS head Paul Johnson.

5. A Smaller State (Times)

The government is right to seek more cuts — but it is unfair to load the burden on to the young, says a Times editorial.

6. There's a new climate of diktat and fear sweeping through the NHS (Guardian)

An occupational therapist who won awards for her work has been sacked for querying cuts to a stroke unit, writes Polly Toynbee.

7. Cameron’s plan for 2014 is to prove he’s a man of his word (Daily Telegraph)

This year will be the Tory leadership’s chance to show that its promises are worth having, writes Benedict Brogan.

8. Take inspiration from Sarajevo, not Munich (Financial Times)

Pointless aggression belongs in the playground, not in international affairs, says Gideon Rachman.

9. Pragmatic public wants immigration mended, not ended (Independent)

People may prefer to see immigration at lower levels – but they don’t want to turn away the positive contribution from migrants, says Sunder Katwala.

10. Betting-shop machines sucking cash out of communities … this is what predatory capitalism looks like (Guardian)

While giving councils greater powers to block new gambling shops, it would be better to cut the maximum stake on fixed-odds betting terminals, says Aditya Chakrabortty.

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Rising crime and fewer police show the most damaging impacts of austerity

We need to protect those who protect us.

Today’s revelation that police-recorded crime has risen by 10 per cent across England and Wales shows one of the most damaging impacts of austerity. Behind the cold figures are countless stories of personal misery; 723 homicides, 466,018 crimes with violence resulting in injury, and 205,869 domestic burglaries to take just a few examples.

It is crucial that politicians of all parties seek to address this rising level of violence and offer solutions to halt the increase in violent crime. I challenge any Tory to defend the idea that their constituents are best served by a continued squeeze on police budgets, when the number of officers is already at the lowest level for more than 30 years.

This week saw the launch Chris Bryant's Protect The Protectors Private Member’s Bill, which aims to secure greater protections for emergency service workers. It carries on where my attempts in the last parliament left off, and could not come at a more important time. Cuts to the number of police officers on our streets have not only left our communities less safe, but officers themselves are now more vulnerable as well.

As an MP I work closely with the local neighbourhood policing teams in my constituency of Halifax. There is some outstanding work going on to address the underlying causes of crime, to tackle antisocial behaviour, and to build trust and engagement across communities. I am always amazed that neighbourhood police officers seem to know the name of every kid in their patch. However cuts to West Yorkshire Police, which have totalled more than £160m since 2010, have meant that the number of neighbourhood officers in my district has been cut by half in the last year, as the budget squeeze continues and more resources are drawn into counter-terrorism and other specialisms .

Overall, West Yorkshire Police have seen a loss of around 1,200 officers. West Yorkshire Police Federation chairman Nick Smart is clear about the result: "To say it’s had no effect on frontline policing is just a nonsense.” Yet for years the Conservatives have argued just this, with the Prime Minister recently telling MPs that crime was at a record low, and ministers frequently arguing that the changing nature of crime means that the number of officers is a poor measure of police effectiveness. These figures today completely debunk that myth.

Constituents are also increasingly coming to me with concerns that crimes are not investigated once they are reported. Where the police simply do not have the resources to follow-up and attend or investigate crimes, communities lose faith and the criminals grow in confidence.

A frequently overlooked part of this discussion is that the demands on police have increased hugely, often in some unexpected ways. A clear example of this is that cuts in our mental health services have resulted in police officers having to deal with mental health issues in the custody suite. While on shift with the police last year, I saw how an average night included a series of people detained under the Mental Health Act. Due to a lack of specialist beds, vulnerable patients were held in a police cell, or even in the back of a police car, for their own safety. We should all be concerned that the police are becoming a catch-all for the state’s failures.

While the politically charged campaign to restore police numbers is ongoing, Protect The Protectors is seeking to build cross-party support for measures that would offer greater protections to officers immediately. In February, the Police Federation of England and Wales released the results of its latest welfare survey data which suggest that there were more than two million unarmed physical assaults on officers over a 12-month period, and a further 302,842 assaults using a deadly weapon.

This is partly due to an increase in single crewing, which sees officers sent out on their own into often hostile circumstances. Morale in the police has suffered hugely in recent years and almost every front-line officer will be able to recall a time when they were recently assaulted.

If we want to tackle this undeniable rise in violent crime, then a large part of the solution is protecting those who protect us; strengthening the law to keep them from harm where possible, restoring morale by removing the pay cap, and most importantly, increasing their numbers.

Holly Lynch is the MP for Halifax. The Protect the Protectors bill will get its second reading on the Friday 20th October. 

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