In 1997, the police in England and Wales recorded a rate of 88 crimes per 1,000 head of the population. For the year ending March 2010, the rate was 79 crimes per 1,000 head of the population.
Does the Minister share the concerns of Tim Hollis, the chief constable of my area, when he warns that cuts of 25% to his budget would lead to cuts in officer numbers, which would mean that crime figures would be likely to increase as a result of measures taken by the coalition Government?
Will the Minister confirm that during the last year of the previous Government, police numbers in the Humberside force—the one that serves my constituency and that of the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull East (Karl Turner)—fell by 150? There are nevertheless still concerns about how to move forward on this issue. Can we have an assurance that when we eventually restructure police organisation, rural policing will be treated with as much importance as city centre policing has been in the past?
First, my hon. Friend is right that police numbers were falling in a number of forces under the previous Government, so their feigned outrage about it now cuts little ice. I understand my hon. Friend’s concern about rural policing, as do many of us who represent rural areas, and we appreciate the need to ensure effective policing in both rural and urban areas.
We do not accept that the police cannot make savings. That seems to me to be the point of difference between the Government and the Opposition on this issue. Like other public services, the police will have to spend money more efficiently. We are committed to ensuring that resources reach the front line and to doing everything we can to reduce bureaucracy, but police forces must find new ways of working—by collaborating and so forth—to ensure that they deliver good value for the taxpayer. The hon. Gentleman should understand the importance of wise spending rather than big spending.