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Police Forces (Local Authority Funding)

Volume 574: debated on Monday 27 January 2014

6. What assessment she has made of the potential effect of reductions in local authority funding on police forces. (902170)

Funding for local authorities is a matter for the Communities Secretary. The Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 puts in place two related, reciprocal duties for police and crime commissioners to co-operate with partners. These duties ensure that local leaders work together to achieve the most effective outcomes for their areas. PCCs are already working with local partners to ensure that they provide the services the public needs, and we encourage them to continue do so.

I thank the Secretary of State for her response, but the fact remains that people across Northumbria are being unfairly hit with savage reductions in local authority budgets and a loss of nearly 400 front- line police officers, which has resulted in an increase in violent crime. With this toxic combination stretching the fabric of partnership working and community policing to breaking point, what steps is the right hon. Lady taking to stem the rise in violent crime and reassure our communities and my constituents across Northumbria?

I am pleased to say that crime survey figures show overall across the country that violent crime is down by some 13%, but I refer the hon. Lady to the answer that I gave earlier to her hon. Friend the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne Central (Chi Onwurah) about Northumbria. The PCC and the chief constable in Northumbria are looking to use technology to work more effectively and looking at ensuring that they collaborate with local partners so that they continue to provide the effective police service that her constituents and the PCC’s constituents want in Northumbria.

I note that police funding in Northumbria is slightly higher than in my county of Leicestershire per head of population. I also note that according to the latest recorded crime figures, crime fell by 19% in Northumbria and 24% in Leicestershire. Does not that show that the issue is not about absolute budgets but how that budget is allocated?

My hon. Friend makes an important point, and he echoes a comment made by Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary, which shows that it is not the number of police officers that is relevant but how they are deployed. So it is about how the resources are used. As I have said, in Northumbria, the PCC and the chief constable are looking to ensure that they use their resources as effectively as possible, particularly through the introduction of new technology.

The Home Secretary must be aware of the disproportionate anomalous effect of the cuts overall— by local and central Government—in the west midlands. We await her review of what happened to Coventry because of the damping review, where we received £44 million less than her own formula should have awarded, and the top-slicing that she announced in January means a cut against what we should have received of a further £3.9 million. Of course, the City of London and Surrey are doing much better. What has she got against the west midlands?

I am pleased to see that the crime figures show that crime continues to fall in the west midlands, and that the West Midlands police have been able to put in a bid to the new innovation fund, which the Government have introduced, and they were successful in that bid, so they will be able to put in place the creation, I understand, of a new intelligence hub, which will greatly enhance their ability to deal with crime in the west midlands.

During the past two years, the budget for policing in the west midlands has been reduced by 13%, and during the same period crime has fallen by 18%. Does my right hon. Friend agree that that this more-for-less outcome is in the interests of law-abiding taxpayers as well as the police?

My hon. Friend makes a good point. It is interesting that the Opposition always refuse to accept that good policing is about how the police are deployed, rather than overall numbers. We understand that, and so do chief constables, which is why, I am pleased to say, we are seeing the effectiveness of police constables and the work their officers are doing up and down the country in reducing crime.

To be a victim of violent crime is traumatic. To see one’s assailant not brought to book adds insult to injury. With 7,000 fewer crimes of violence against the person solved under this Government, does the Home Secretary accept that this is the inevitable consequence of the combination of the biggest cuts in local government history and the cutting of 10,000 police officers from the front line: more violent criminals getting off scot-free?

No, I do not accept the hon. Gentleman’s premise. Labour Front Benchers often quote detection rates. Of course, we have seen the number of crimes fall, and that has an impact on the number of detections.

Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating North Yorkshire police on further reducing crime by 5%? Does she also agree that local authorities have a useful role to play in reading the films from CCTV cameras and that that should continue on an ongoing basis?

I thank my hon. Friend for her comment about the necessity of working with local authorities, which I think is absolutely imperative. The work that local authorities do in looking at images from CCTV cameras and working with the police on that is an important part of the picture of partnership working to reduce crime in the local area.