Priti Patel speaking at the policing summit Image copyright PA Media
Image caption Priti Patel told a crime conference she would be “unapologetic” about holding police to account

There must be “no excuses” for not cutting crime, Home Secretary Priti Patel has told senior police officers.

Speaking at a conference in central London, Ms Patel signalled the return of national targets, saying “outcomes” in key areas would be measured.

The home secretary added she would be “unapologetic” about holding police to account.

It came as ministers continued to dismiss allegations of bullying in the Home Office.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has pledged to recruit 20,000 new police officers in England and Wales within three years – almost reversing the reduction in numbers since the Conservatives came to power in 2010.

Speaking at the the National Police Chiefs’ Council and Association of Police and Crime Commissioners summit in Westminster, Ms Patel said she expected people to be able to see a difference when the new officers were in post, such as less crime and safer streets.

She said success would be measured against a set of national policing outcomes, with priorities including reducing murders, serious violence and neighbourhood crime.

Ms Patel said she was “unequivocal” in her support for officers, but added: “We need to pull out all the stops to deliver the decline in crime that people want to see. There must be no weak spots.

“These outcomes will be non-negotiable and I will be unapologetic about holding you to account.”

Priti Patel’s message to the police was blunt: we’re investing in you, now you must deliver.

This will have come as little surprise to the chief constables gathered at the conference – a government which has made law and order a priority expects results.

But the means by which ministers will gauge success – national “outcomes”, or targets in all but name – are likely to cause concern.

The last time national crime indicators were brought in, under Tony Blair’s Labour administration, they had a series of unintended consequences, as certain serious offences, which were not being measured, weren’t given the attention they should have been.

The three-year deadline for reductions in crime set by the home secretary is also hugely ambitious.

But the clear goal she has set is likely to be welcomed by the public, which, as she acknowledged in her speech, has lost confidence in the criminal justice system.

Ms Patel’s speech came as ministers continued to dismiss allegations of bullying in the Home Office after claims she clashed with senior officials, belittled colleagues and is distrusted by intelligence chiefs.

Ms Patel and permanent secretary Sir Philip Rutnam released a joint statement denying reports of a deep rift at the top of the department, while allies described her as a “demanding” boss but not a bully.

Earlier, police minister Kit Malthouse insisted there was “glutinous harmony” in the department and he had not witnessed bullying by his boss.

The reports of feuding prompted the head of the Civil Service, Sir Mark Sedwill, to order an end to media leaks in a missive to government staff.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Ministers have continued to dismiss allegations Ms Patel bullied her staff

Also in her speech, Ms Patel announced £41.5m of funding for forces in 18 areas worst affected by serious violence, and launched an eight-week consultation on plans to enshrine a police covenant in law.

The plan, first mooted in the Conservative Party’s general election manifesto, pledges to back the rights of serving or ex-police officers, staff and their families, recognise the responsibility and risks officers take, and introduce a code of ethics.

The Police Federation of England and Wales welcomed the plans.

National chairman John Apter said: “Policing is a dangerous and unpredictable job and it’s essential that there is something in place that ensures that police officers, staff, retired colleagues and their families receive the support they deserve.

“This consultation is an opportunity to help shape what a police covenant will look like. This is something I feel extremely passionate about and it’s great to see this taking a step closer to becoming a reality.”

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