The shadow home secretary, Andy Burnham, will drop Labour’s pledge to scrap elected police and crime commissioners (PCCs) and also reject outright opposition to further cuts in police spending.
In his conference speech on Wednesday, Burnham, who unsuccesfully challenged for the party leadership, will argue that it is possible to “protect most what we’ve got” with cuts of 5% to 10% in police budgets, but beyond that he will warn that public safety will be put at risk.
He says that it is perfectly possible to make further savings in police spending up to 10%. The government, which has already cut police budgets by 20% in the past five years, is currently examining options for further savings of between 25% and 40% to be announced in November.
In a preview of a part of his conference speech, Burnham said during a policing fringe on Tuesday lunchtime that he was also going to announce that Labour’s pledge to scrap elected police and crime commissioners would now be dropped.
He said that he wanted to see a “change of tone” in Labour’s approach to PCCs. The second set of elections for commissioners is due to take place next May, and by the time of the next general election most will have had at least two terms in office.
“They are part of the policing landscape and are here to stay for the medium term. We should be supporting the excellent work being done by Labour PCCs,” he said.
In his conference speech on Wednesday the new shadow home secretary will also call for the reform of European Union’s free movement rules and for new rules to end the undercutting of wages during the EU referendum debate to “win back Ukip voters”.
He wants to see a new agreement come out of the EU renegotiation that “enshrines respect for the industry/union-agreed ‘going rate’ for jobs in a country that would often be higher than minimum wage”. Burnham has been assured it would not require a treaty change.
He will call on Labour to ‘face up to the truth’ that the current rules on free movement of people is widening inequality and argue that a reformed Europe must provide a ‘floor beneath all workers’ and protect wages.
Burnham will also pledge to tackle the ‘scapegoating rhetoric’ from other parties in the immigration debate and says he will offer a positive vision for a new social Europe.
“To win back the voters we lost to Ukip, I want to reframe the debate about immigration and the way Labour approaches it. For too long, we have argued that free movement across Europe benefits everyone and affects all areas equally. That’s just not true,” he will say.
“In places, a free market in labour benefits private companies more than people and communities. Labour hasn’t faced up to that and that’s why we look out of touch.
“The truth is that free movement on the current rules is widening inequality. It has built the economic power of the big cities and that is good. But it has made life harder for people in our poorest communities, where wages have been undercut and job security lost.
“The coming referendum presents a chance to change that. Let’s seize it as an opportunity to put Labour back on the front foot and back in touch.”
He is also to promise a new vision for a social Europe: “A Europe that puts people before profits and multinationals; a floor beneath all workers. The Tories and UKIP want to take those protections away.
“Let’s have the strength to take on their scapegoating rhetoric which won’t pay anybody’s bills, feed anybody’s kids or protect anybody’s job.
“We welcome people here to work, as we always have. But let’s make it work for everyone with new EU rules to stop undercutting, protecting the “going rate” for skilled workers,” he is to say.