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Police Numbers

Volume 464: debated on Monday 15 October 2007

12. What assessment she has made of the likely effect of budgetary plans on future police officer numbers in the east midlands. (157288)

I met the police authority chairs and the chief constables from the east midlands most recently on 6 September, and I shall continue to listen to their views. My hon. Friend will know that no final decisions have been made on police funding settlement for the comprehensive spending review years. Full details of the provisional settlement will be announced in late November or early December.

The five police forces of the east midlands cover a rapidly expanding population of well over 4 million people with a police spend per capita of £157 or about 76 per cent. of the English average of £206 per capita. That makes it very difficult to deliver on policing priorities such as improving protective services. Will the Minister agree to meet representatives of the five authorities—Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire—again to discuss the financial position and to plot out a way ahead for all concerned?

I am happy to do that, and I shall return to that point shortly. It is an error to use a per capita figure for police spending, given the distinct nature of all forces, urban-rural splits and other factors. However, despite that erroneous use of data, I shall of course meet my hon. Friend and his colleagues. I have an extant request for a cross-party meeting from one of our colleagues in Nottingham and a Conservative colleague, but I am more than happy to meet as many east midlands MPs, of whatever hue, as it takes.

Although the announcement that the Minister is prepared to meet MPs is welcome—I am sure that Conservative Members will wish to join in—does he accept that the five regional forces have worked hard to increase their capability and improve their interaction on protective services? Does he acknowledge that the last thing that my constituents in Daventry want is a reduction in the number of police officers, whether it is induced by a shortage of funding or by a conscious decision by the police authority?

I am happy to accept the latter point. The hon. Gentleman will know that across the five forces officer numbers have increased—by the most in Leicestershire, where they have increased by 14-plus per cent. In addition, the numbers of support staff have increased by between 32 and 70 per cent., crime is down in each of the areas, and over the past 10 years Government grant has increased by between 10 and 22 per cent. I am happy to meet MPs from the area and representatives of the five forces to discuss these matters, but that is the context within which those discussions should take place.