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Police Forces (Collaboration)

Volume 535: debated on Monday 7 November 2011

I welcome the increasing levels of collaboration between police forces and expect more forces to consider how to work together to bring improvements and save money. The Government provide funding to support regional collaborations to tackle organised crime and have strengthened the duty to collaborate through the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011.

I thank the Home Secretary for that reply. Does she agree that the collaboration between West Mercia police and Warwickshire police, through their human resources department, produces exactly the kind of saving that can be made without resorting to the compulsory mergers advocated by the previous Government?

Indeed, and I commend my hon. Friend’s police force for the work it is doing in collaboration. Many forces across the country are collaborating in a number of areas. We are able to ensure that we can get the benefits of collaboration without forcing mergers on police forces, which the Labour party tried to do when it was in government.

Thames Valley police is collaborating in various ways with no fewer than six other forces, and the work it is doing with the Hampshire constabulary alone is saving £9 million a year. Does my right hon. Friend agree that that demonstrates that it is perfectly possible for police forces to save money without that having any impact on front-line policing?

My hon. Friend is absolutely correct that that is possible. Thames Valley and Hampshire police are showing that, as are other forces up and down the country. Indeed, in many cases they will not only be saving money, but may be providing a more effective service.

One area where collaboration between forces would be welcome is in dealing with metal theft, which is growing across the country. For example, a business in my constituency lost its industrial process, which meant that it then lost business. What will Ministers do to ensure that collaboration increases and, more importantly, when will they introduce legislation to deal with metal theft?

The hon. Lady has raised a matter of serious concern to a great number of Members, particularly given that we have seen not only the impact on the economy, but the appalling incidence of theft of metal plaques from war memorials, which I am sure has shocked everyone in the House. We are discussing with ACPO and others what legislative changes to the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 1964 might be needed and we are talking with the police about what action can be taken better to identify the rogue dealers in advance of any changes to the legislation.

Nobody will oppose sensible collaborations, but with last week’s report of a 7% rise in theft and a 10% rise in household burglary reported, coupled with a projected loss of 16,000 police officers, it is incumbent on the Secretary of State to tell us the exact total savings from such collaborations nationally and the remaining national funding shortfall after those collaborations have saved some money—if only so that the Minister for Equalities, the hon. Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Lynne Featherstone), is able to stop her police cuts campaign quickly.

Discussions are taking place between police forces on exactly how much money can be saved by such collaborations, and better approaches to police procurement and to IT, for example, will help to save £380 million. But I am very sorry because it sounds as if yet again the Labour party opposes action to save money while ensuring that the police are able to maintain their services.