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By Anna LamcheBBC News

Ralf Ibing - firo sportphoto/Getty Images Two police officers stand with their backs to the cameraRalf Ibing – firo sportphoto/Getty Images

The Conservative Party is promising to recruit 8,000 additional police officers over the next three years if they win the General Election.

Under the plans, the new neighbourhood police officers would also be given increased powers to seize knives and recover stolen goods.

The policing uplift programme would partly be paid for by increasing visa fees and removing the student discount to the Immigration Health surcharge, the party said.

Labour said the government had “decimated neighbourhood policing” since coming to power in 2010, describing the pledge as “another empty promise”.

The Tory party suggested the new, “fully warranted” officers would join neighbourhood policing teams across the country – promising the equivalent of one additional police officer for every ward in England and Wales.

“Abstraction” of the new recruits – where officers are pulled off their beat to fill gaps elsewhere in the force – would only be permitted in “exceptional circumstances”, the Conservatives said.

The new police officers would join the 20,000 already recruited since 2019, the Tories added.

However, critics say the 20,000 officers recruited since the last general election – as part of a major 2019 election pledge by the Conservatives – had simply replaced the 20,000 officers who left the force between 2010 and 2019, after government funding was cut by 20%.

In addition to boosting neighbourhood policing teams, the new measures would strengthen police powers to seize and destroy blades such as “Zombie” knives and machetes, the Conservatives said.

Police would also be able to enter premises without a warrant to seize stolen goods such as phones, the party added.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “More bobbies on the beat and increased powers will give police forces the tools they need to drive down neighbourhood crime even further.”

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The Conservatives took aim at Labour’s pledge to boost local police patrols by 13,000 if they win the general election, claiming only 3,000 officers would be “fully warranted” and “full time”.

This is because part of Labour’s total number of new recruits would be comprised of PSCOs – officers who share some, but not all of the powers afforded to police – as well as special constables, who work on a voluntary basis.

Labour told the BBC all the positions created under a Labour government would be “full time”.

The party says it would fund the move by cutting “back-office waste”.

Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, said: “The Tories have repeatedly promised more police on the beat but instead they have cut 10,000 neighbourhood police, 90% of crimes are going unsolved, prisons are in crisis and more than twice as many people now say they never see the police on the beat.”

She said the Conservatives had costed the policy on the basis of “a fudge that seem to depend on continued high migration which they promised to bring down”.

Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats said the Conservatives had funnelled money “into pet projects instead of bobbies on the beat.”

“6,000 crimes are still going unsolved every day, including 3 in 4 of all burglaries and car thefts”, Liberal Democrats Home Affairs Spokesperson Alistair Carmichael said.

“Clearly, the Conservative Party’s previous uplift pledge has not delivered the community policing that British people deserve.

“What makes these half-baked plans any different?”

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