Jeremy Corbyn accused Theresa May of “not being straight with the public” over her pledge to end austerity as he demanded extra police and nurses.
The Labour leader challenged the Prime Minister to guarantee that next week’s Budget will result in a boost for public service staffing numbers, as he highlighted concerns from “gloomy Tories in Derby” over council cuts and a warning from Tory-led Walsall Council about austerity being “alive and kicking”.
Mr Corbyn also said Staffordshire Police have “lost 500 officers” and that Chief Constable Gareth Morgan apologised to colleagues and their families for “cancelling rest days just to maintain the service”, adding: “Will the Prime Minister apologise to the police as well?”
Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions, Mrs May replied: “What we saw at the last election was the Labour Party saying £300 million more should be made available to the police, what we have done is made available £460 million more to the police.”
Mrs May then held up a book which she claimed had suggested the “numbers did not add up” for Labour’s 2017 general election manifesto.
She earlier repeated her belief that people will know there are “better days ahead” after a decade of austerity, with the Government outlining its spending plans shortly.
Mr Corbyn, in his reply to the manifesto claims, said: “Only one party costed their manifesto at the last election and it wasn’t the Tory Party.
“For all she says about police, the reality is there are 21,000 fewer police officers than there were eight years ago.
“And she should listen to the Chief Constable of the West Midlands (Dave Thompson) who says criminals are taking advantage of these cuts – ‘We’re struggling to deliver a service to the public … I think the criminals are well aware of how stretched we are’.”
Mr Corbyn also criticised Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey for suggesting some people will be worse off under Universal Credit, labelling Mrs May “completely out of touch with the reality” of the welfare reforms, and later called for the nursing bursary to be restored.
Concluding his remarks, the Opposition leader said: “This Government is simply not being straight with the public.
“They promised an end to austerity, they can’t even fool their own councillors; they promised the NHS an extra £20 billion but we don’t know where it’s coming from or when it’s coming – GP numbers falling, health visitor numbers falling and nurse numbers falling also.
“They promised Universal Credit would protect everyone but the Work and Pensions Secretary let the cat out of the bag – people will be worse off.
“The Prime Minister claimed she is ending austerity – so will she confirm that in next week’s Budget there will be more police on our streets, more nurses in our hospitals, and elderly people in desperate need of care will not go ignored and forgotten by her Government?”
Mrs May defended the Government’s spending record on public services before criticising Labour’s plans, telling the Commons: “We now see, as reported by a respected academic, that by their own admission, Labour’s plans would cost £1,000 billion. That’s the equivalent of £35,000 for every household in this country.
“We know what that would mean – higher debt, higher taxes, fewer jobs, Labour just taking us back to square one.”
Shadow Treasury minister Peter Dowd later raised a point of order in which he asked if Mrs May should return to the Commons and apologise to Professor Simon Wren-Lewis over how she quoted a passage of the book Economics For The Many, in which the University of Oxford professor was a contributor.
Mr Dowd also read out a statement from the professor, which included him saying: “Apparently the Prime Minister quoted me saying about Labour’s 2017 manifesto ‘the numbers did not add up’ – in fact I said ‘Let us suppose the IFS was correct’ and examined consequences. I have never taken a view on whether they did/didn’t add up.”