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Police Numbers (Greater Manchester)

Volume 524: debated on Monday 7 March 2011

It is a matter for the chief constable and the police authority to determine the number of police officers that are deployed by Greater Manchester police within the available resource.

Crime levels went down under the previous Government. That is a well known fact. The chief constable of Greater Manchester estimates that around 1,500 officers will be lost because of the cuts. Can the Government justify that?

I should point out to the hon. Gentleman that there are also 4,000 police staff working in Greater Manchester police. There was a huge increase in the number of police staff employed by police forces under the previous Government. The chief constable of Greater Manchester police said in evidence to the Home Affairs Committee that

“there was already a recognition, certainly in Greater Manchester Police, that some of our headquarters operations had got too big.”

Forces can and must make savings in back and middle offices while protecting the front line.

The Minister has not really responded to the real issue on this. Will he tell the House unequivocally—and repeat his view—that when we see the number of police officers reduced in Greater Manchester, as we will, it will have no impact on crime?

We are absolutely determined to maintain efficient and effective forces, and every chief constable I meet, including the chief constable of Greater Manchester, makes the same point. The chief constable said last week, after being misquoted on the matter:

“We need to have an intelligent debate about the cuts and see the opportunities, not just the threats.”

The Government insist that it is possible to cut 10,000 police posts nationally, and up to 1,500 in Manchester. I should point out to the Minister that they also plan to cut nearly 1,600 back-office staff. We know from an answer that Baroness Neville-Jones gave in the House of Lords that there is no formally agreed definition of front-line police services. If those are not cuts to front-line police services, we would like to know what they are. Can the Minister get to the Dispatch Box and tell us exactly what the definition of police front-line service is, because if he cannot, how can he protect them?

I have defined it on a number of occasions, including in a written answer. Let me repeat it for the hon. Gentleman: front-line policing

“includes neighbourhood policing, response policing and criminal investigation.”—[Official Report, 8 February 2011; Vol. 523, c. 194W.]

There can be savings in the back and middle offices, as at least a third of all spending is in those areas. If he thinks that there is no definition of front-line policing, how can he be so confident that there will be cuts in the front line? His position is nonsense.