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Police Funding

Volume 515: debated on Monday 6 September 2010

Future funding for the police service will be announced in the spending review, which reports on 20 October. I cannot speculate on the outcome of this review, but the Government’s priority is to cut the deficit, and the police must play their part in achieving this.

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that reply. He has already cut the police budget in year by £125 million, the equivalent of approximately 4,000 police jobs. If he is to make a 25% cut as the comprehensive spending review requires, it will be a cut of some £1.1 billion, the equivalent of some 40,000 police jobs. Can he confirm that that is the order of magnitude of the cuts that he is looking at? A simple yes or no will do.

The hon. Lady is just speculating. In relation to the in-year cut to which she objects, it is important to understand that it represents less than 1% of what the police will spend this year, and our view is that the police can find those efficiencies and make the savings. In relation to further cuts, there will have to be savings, but the independent inspectorate of constabulary said a few weeks ago that police forces could save more than £1 billion a year—equivalent to 12% of spending—without having an impact on the front line.

This morning, at the invitation of the hon. Member for Rochester and Strood (Mark Reckless), I visited Medway and was shown two innovative, award-winning schemes pioneered by the police there to combat prostitution and to ensure effective offender management. The chief constable of Kent told me that if the envisaged cuts of 20% are put in place, 1,500 jobs will be lost in Kent and £35 million will come off his budget. Will the Minister give us an assurance that the schemes that I saw today, and others all over the country, will be protected? Could he at the very least give police authorities an early idea of the budget constraints they will have to deal with, as 25 October is quite a long way away?

The right hon. Gentleman invites me to speculate ahead of the spending review outcome, and he knows that I cannot do that. We will know fairly shortly what sums of money will be available to police forces, but it will be necessary for them to make savings, and it will be up to chief constables to achieve greater efficiencies and more collaboration between forces. The inspectorate is clear that those efficiencies can be made.

Could the right hon. Gentleman tell the House what bid he has made to the Treasury for police funding for future years? How many fewer police officers does he expect to see on the streets in two years’ time if the proposed settlement is achieved? Ultimately, is he battling for the police or implementing the axe for the Treasury?

What is clear is that the Opposition still have not faced up to their responsibility for bequeathing us the fiscal deficit. They left us with £44 billion of unspecified spending cuts. The shadow Home Secretary told “The Daily Politics” show on 20 July, in debate with me, that they would have cut by £1 billion, by 12%. But Labour voted against a spending cut of 0.5%. It demonstrates that it—

Order. I am grateful to the Minister. “The Daily Politics” is a fascinating programme, but I do not want to hear about the dilations of Opposition spokesmen on it, because the purpose of Question Time is to hear about the policies of the Government.