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Petitions

Volume 545: debated on Wednesday 9 May 2012

Petitions

Wednesday 9 May 2012

Observations

Communities and Local Government

Emergency Fire Control Services in Cumbria

The Petition of residents of Cumbria,

Declares that the Petitioners oppose the decision by Cumbria County Council to outsource services currently provided by Cumbria Emergency Fire Control to Cheshire in 2012 and eventually a regional facility in 2014.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to encourage Cumbria County Council to re-consider their decision to outsource Cumbria Emergency Fire Control services and ensure that before any further decisions are made, all plans, including a full breakdown of the financial business case are made available through a public consultation.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Tim Farron, Official Report, 17 April 2012; Vol. 543, c. 291.]

[P001017]

Observations from the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, received 8 May 2012.

The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government is aware that a consortium of Fire and Rescue Authorities in the North West (Cumbria, Greater Manchester, Lancashire and Cheshire) are seeking to use the control centre building in Warrington, procured as part of the terminated FiReControl Project, as a shared control service for the four authorities.

Decisions to share control services and use the Warrington building are entirely a matter for the four authorities.

Following closure of the previous Government’s failed FiReControl programme, which wasted half a billion pounds of taxpayers’ money, the Coalition Government consulted on the best way to improve the resilience and efficiency of fire and rescue control services in England. This established that there was broad support for a localist approach with locally determined and delivered projects.

The Secretary of State is clear that it is for Fire and Rescue Authorities to deliver local control services in the way that best meets the needs of their communities and provides value for the taxpayer. Decisions should be made by local elected representatives, accountable to the local electorate.

Fire and rescue authorities should be open and transparent in their dealings, including following the “Code of Recommended Practice for Local Authorities on Data Transparency”.

Home Department

Police Cuts (Humberside)

The Petition of residents of Hull,

Declares that the Petitioners believe that the Government have a duty to protect citizens from crime; that the significant increase in police officers over the past 10 years has helped reduce crime and make people feel safer; notes that under Government proposals the police budget will be cut by 20%, that over 16,000 police officers will be lost and that for Humberside Police Force cuts will be even greater than the national average, with a 25% reduction in the police budget; further notes that Humberside police force is projected to have 250 fewer police officers in March 2012 than in March 2010; and declares that the Petitioners believe that this will hamper the efforts of the police to prevent crime and keep citizens safe.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to support the work of the police in ensuring that the downward trend in overall crime continues by at least maintaining 2010 levels of uniformed police officers in England and Wales.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Diana Johnson, Official Report, 7 February 2012; Vol. 540, c. 276.]

[P001005]

Observations from the Secretary of State for the Home Department:

The Government support the work of the police, both in Humberside and across England and Wales as a whole.

The reductions in funding for the police are challenging but manageable. This Government inherited the largest peacetime deficit in Britain’s history, and have had no option but to take urgent action. As a service spending £14 billion per year, the police cannot be exempt from the requirement to save public money.

However, Government funding is not the only source of income for the police. About a quarter comes from the police precept (element of council tax). The level of police precept is set by the police authority and, from 2012, the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC). Humberside Police Authority has taken the decision to increase their precept by 3.99% for 2012-13. If future precept decisions of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Humberside follow a similar pattern to those taken by the Police Authority in recent years, the force will face at most a 7% cash reduction in overall funding over the spending review period.

The effectiveness of a police force depends not on overall numbers but on how well it deploys its resources. Recorded crime fell by 4% over the last year, while total police officer numbers reduced over the same period. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary have made clear that there is no simple link between officer numbers and crime levels, between numbers and the visibility of the police in the community, or between numbers and the quality of service provided.

We do know, however, that forces can do more to ensure that frontline services are prioritised. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary has shown that, on average, only 12% of officers and PCSOs are visible and available at key times. Additionally, in March 2010 there were around 25,000 police officers and PCSOs working in non-frontline functions, including over 7,000 police officers working in back office jobs.

The Government are aware that forces are already doing more on this agenda. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary have found that police forces are planning to increase the proportion of police officers and staff working on the frontline from 68% in 2010, to 70% by March of this year, with that trend expected to continue.

Nevertheless, forces can go further and organise their resources better while ensuring they are focused on what the public wants. Smarter deployment; shift patterns that better reflect demand for services from the public; reducing bureaucracy and increasing the scope for officers to use their professional judgment will all help improve efficiency. Collaboration between forces, better IT, and better procurement will help reduce costs whilst maintaining services. This Government are aware that all police forces are taking steps to reduce spending, while striving to improve the service they deliver for the public. With transformational changes in the way police forces work, savings of over £2 billion a year are possible—exceeding the reductions in police funding.