Labour leader tells PM that money spent on elected police chiefs and NHS shakeup could be better spent recruiting frontline staff.
Ed Miliband and David Cameron clash at PMQs.
The prime minister, David Cameron, admitted that stand-alone elections for police commissioners will cost an additional £25m as he faced a barracking from Labour's Ed Miliband over "reckless and needless" public sector reforms.
Cameron faced accusations of "wasting money" which could be better used to recruit thousands of extra police officers, as he sought to defend moves to introduce elected police commissioners.
A plan to bring in elected police chiefs is set to go ahead after Liberal Democrat peers, who had been delaying the Tory initiated policy, accepted safeguards introduced into the legislation.
In a move likely to irritate many on the Conservative benches who feel their party is making too many concessions to Lib Dems and too few to their own side, the legislative delay will mean voting for the new posts will take place in November 2012 instead of at the same time as local elections in May.
The Labour leader told Cameron he was "making a bad policy worse by wasting money" after the prime minister said staging separate elections in November would cost £25m – money Cameron stressed would not come out of police budgets.
As MPs prepared to debate amendments to the health and social care bill on Wednesday afternoon, Miliband also criticised the NHS shakeup and urged the prime minister to "scrap both of these disruptive and dangerous plans".
Miliband told Cameron at the close of a heated exchange: "The truth is, under this government we are seeing two reckless and needless reorganisations of our public services, police numbers down and waiting lists up.
"Under Labour we saw police officers up and waiting lists down. Why don't you do the right thing for the future of our public services and scrap both of these disruptive and dangerous plans?"
Miliband seized on reforms to health and policing as MPs gathered for the first prime minister's questions session since July.
Regarding the cost of delaying the elections for police commissioners, Cameron told Miliband: "It is important to get this policy right and to make sure it works."
Turning the tables on Miliband, Cameron asked him why Labour was "so frightened of elections".
Cameron said the plan involved scrapping police authorities, which would save money, and accused Labour of making a "U-turn".
Labour previously had plans for "directly elected representatives to give local people more control over policing", said Cameron.
Miliband said: "We know what the public up and down this country know: this is the wrong priority for the country. What did we see during the riots? We saw visible, effective policing."
He went on: "The prime minister tells us we cannot afford the current police budget, we have got to cut the number of police officers by 16,000.
"But he tells the country it can afford £100m and more as a result of his decision to waste money on 42 elected politicians earning over £120,000 a year. That could pay for 2,000 extra police officers.
"Isn't the truth that this is the wrong priority at the wrong time for the country?"
As Miliband later moved on to the controversial health reforms, Cameron joked: "I'm not surprised you want to change subjects because on policing you were having your collar felt because you have done a complete U-turn on the policy you used to be committed to."
The Labour leader said the number of people who had to wait more than six months for an operation had gone up by more than 60% since Cameron entered Downing Street.
Cameron insisted the amount of time people were waiting for an outpatient operation had "actually gone down".
"As you know, we have targets for 90% of people to get their treatment within 18 weeks and those targets are being met," he said.
And he insisted the health reforms were now backed by a number of leading professional health groups as well as former Labour health minister and surgeon Lord Darzi – to the dismay of Miliband, who accused him of being "on another planet".
The Labour leader said the British Medical Association, the Royal College of GPs and the Royal College of Midwives "all rejected your bill".