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Policing Levels (East Midlands)

Volume 553: debated on Monday 19 November 2012

5. What recent assessment she has made of policing levels in the east midlands; and if she will make a statement. (128817)

I congratulate the chief constables and police officers of Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire and Nottinghamshire on rising to the challenge of cutting crime with reduced budgets. The latest recorded crime statistics show a 15% reduction in recorded crime in the east midlands in the two years to June 2012, with officer numbers down 6% in the past year.

Clearly the new police and crime commissioner will have a very challenging role in the current environment. Should not we as a Government show a degree of humility in admitting that very serious errors were made in the way in which we publicised last week’s elections, show determination to make the system work, and explain to people that replacing anaemic police authorities with a single identifiable head is the right way forward?

I agree very much with my hon. Friend’s second point, but less with the first. The police and crime commissioners, including the very good commissioner who has just been elected in his own county—[Hon. Members: “The Tory candidate lost.”] Unlike the Opposition, I am being non-partisan about this.

The new commissioner can build on work that is already under way. Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary has found that forces expect the proportion of officers working in front-line roles to increase from 83% in March 2010 to 89% in March 2015. That 15% fall in crime in the east midlands is the biggest percentage decrease in all the regions of England and Wales, which demonstrates that the effectiveness of a police force depends not on overall numbers but on how well it deploys its resources.

My constituents are puzzled by the fact that the Government’s priority was to spend £100 million on an election that was unwanted rather than spending that money on 3,000 more police officers. What explanation can the Minister give my puzzled constituents?

The hon. Gentleman is merely repeating the question asked by his right hon. Friend the shadow Home Secretary. Let me point out to him that—as was pointed out to his right hon. Friend on television yesterday—the figure that Labour Members keep producing would involve employing 3,000 police officers for one year and then sacking them all. I think his constituents would be pretty puzzled by that.