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Police Numbers

Volume 535: debated on Monday 7 November 2011

As I have just explained to the House, we have set a challenging but manageable funding settlement for the police service. It is for the chief constable and the police authority in each force to determine the number of police officers that are deployed given the available resources.

The public disorder of August showed us that police numbers count, along with forces throughout the United Kingdom working closely together on major issues. Does not the Minister see therefore how foolish it is to cut more than 16,000 police officers by 2015—the same number that brought order to London during the summer riots?

As I have said, police forces must make savings because we have to deal with the deficit, but they can do so in a way that protects front-line policing. There is no reason why there should be damage to the front line if they drive savings elsewhere. I have pointed out to the House before, and will do so again, that a third of human resources in police forces are not on the front line. Some 25,000 police officers are in back-room jobs. That is where police forces should begin.

In making the police settlement and deploying the police’s forces, will the Minister ensure that rural police forces have an element of funding related to rurality and sparsity?

We do ensure that, and I understand my hon. Friend’s concern about the issue. I will, in fact, be speaking about rural crime at an Association of Chief Police Officers conference later this week. It is important that we tackle such matters, and they will all be taken into account when we consider the specific allocations for police forces for the third and fourth years of the spending round.

I am sure the Minister would like to join me in welcoming the 500 extra police community support officers pledged by the Welsh Assembly Government. The ones in Gwent are being recruited at the moment. Does he agree that they will be a really valuable help in tackling antisocial behaviour in Welsh communities, unlike the Government’s cuts in front-line policing?

If I can ignore the last part of the hon. Lady’s question, I will say that PCSOs play an important role in helping to ensure that we tackle crime and maintain confidence in communities. Last week the Home Secretary and I, and the shadow Home Secretary and her shadow Ministers, were able to attend the Jane’s Police Review community policing awards, which recognised the role of PCSOs and others, and it is important that we continue to recognise that role.