Given that the basic policy premise behind the hon. Gentleman’s question is, in my opinion, flawed, there has been no such assessment. Police community support officers are not a replacement for police constables. They are an additional, highly visible and responsive resource for the police service to deploy in support of the implementation of neighbourhood policing.
I agree with the Minister that the replacement of police constables is not the basis of Government policy, but may I tell him of the strong feeling of residents in Kettering that the effect of the Government’s policy will be precisely that? Next year, there will be an increase in the number of police community support officers in Northamptonshire and, potentially, a reduction of 42 in the number of full-time police officer posts.
Because of the funding crisis facing Durham constabulary next year, the police authority is contemplating replacing 100 police officers with 70 community support officers. Although I commend the role of community support officers in Durham, as a result, Durham residents will have 100 fewer police officers on the streets. Will the Minister agree to meet me, together with my hon. Friends the Members for City of Durham (Dr. Blackman-Woods), for Easington (John Cummings) and for Bishop Auckland (Helen Goodman), to discuss the police authority’s budget for next year and to stop that happening?
I shall be happy to meet my hon. Friends to discuss the matter. We have said very clearly that, given the settlement and the debate that we shall subsequently have on it, if any force has any difficulties over resources, it should get in touch with us. I say the same to Northamptonshire as I have just said to Durham.