The Government are committed to delivering a visible and reassuring police presence. At the end of March 2008, 64.9 per cent. of police officer time was spent on front-line duties, the fourth successive annual improvement since 2003-04. Since April 2008, there has been a neighbourhood policing team in every area. The policing pledge includes a commitment for neighbourhood policing teams to spend at least 80 per cent. of their time visibly working on their patch.
It means that it is time for us to look at how we measure what the police do and the progress that has been made, particularly in terms of reducing crime across the country, including in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency. He will know that as a consequence of review we have a single, top-down target that will simply relate to the confidence of local people in their police. I think that is the target the police want and the target the general public will want as well.
My hon. Friend is aware that the general public—everybody out there—want high-visibility policing. What more can he do to ensure that there are more police on the beat and that there is less form-filling and less time taken locking people up in long-distance lock-up centres instead of using local cells more efficiently to ensure that the police are back on the streets to lock up more problems. Will he do something about it?
My hon. Friend has been a long-time advocate of ensuring that there is a greater visible police presence on the streets. In his area—as in every area across the country—there are now neighbourhood policing teams, with dedicated police officers and police community support officers, out there on the street. He will have heard earlier about the measures we are taking to ensure that we reduce bureaucracy and the amount of form-filling that police officers have to do so that they can spend more time out on the street. The work I saw in Staffordshire, which has also been going on in Surrey, the west midlands and Leicestershire, shows that we can reduce the amount of form-filling. That empowers front-line officers and means that they can spend more time out on the street, where I know my hon. Friend wants them—as indeed we all do.