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Police Funding

Volume 577: debated on Monday 10 March 2014

8. What assessment she has made of the effect of reductions in funding to local authorities on police forces. (902910)

Funding for local authorities is a matter for the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. The Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 introduced two related, reciprocal duties for police and crime commissioners to co-operate with partners. PCCs are already working with local leaders to achieve effective outcomes for their areas, and we encourage them to continue to do so. In Hampshire. for example, fire and police authorities and the county council are joining up corporate services, and expect to save up to £4 million a year.

Street wardens, neighbourhood wardens and police community support officers are key to neighbourhood policing, but huge cuts in local authority budgets are forcing councils such as Coventry city council, West Midlands county council and others throughout the country to cut their funding for what local communities want: wardens and PCSOs on their streets. Does the Home Secretary not recognise the damage being done to neighbourhood policing, and the increasing burden that she is placing on our police service?

I disagree with the premise of that question, and so do the hon. Gentleman’s constituents and others across the west midlands. Some 87% of the public say that they are satisfied with the West Midlands police—a greater percentage than in the country as a whole—and the west midlands has amongst the highest levels of victim satisfaction in the country. The reason for that is probably that the most recent statistics show that, in the year to September 2013, recorded crime in the west midlands was down 1%.

21. Does the Minister agree that central to cutting crime is how we deploy our police forces? This is not about targets or bureaucracy; it is about ensuring that the police are deployed in the right way to focus on cutting neighbourhood crime. (902923)

My hon. Friend is right. Indeed, the inspectorate of constabulary has found that a higher proportion of police officers are visible on the front line, where people want to see them. That is why our streets are safer now than they have been for decades.

Police community support officers, local men and women on the beat, are much loved and much respected in communities throughout the country and the bedrock of neighbourhood policing. With councils now hit hard by the biggest cuts in local government history, 3,366 PCSOs have gone since the general election. Does the Minister recognise local communities’ mounting concern about the loss of their PCSOs? Will he join me in welcoming the commitment to put 500 PCSOs back on the beat, which is now being honoured by Labour Wales?

I agree with the hon. Gentleman to the extent that I absolutely value the work of PCSOs, but he is deluding himself if he thinks that the streets are becoming less safe and that neighbourhood policing is in retreat. Neighbourhood policing is at the heart of the policing model operated by this country’s forces. Over the past few years, they have collaborated better with local government and the NHS so that every pound they spend is more visible on the streets and is being shown in the consistent reduction in crime.

The reality is that crime is falling. Does the Minister agree that it is precisely at a time of pressure on budgets that the police should look at innovative ways of working with local authorities, the voluntary sector and other partners to deliver services that keep people safe in their communities?

My hon. Friend is right. He represents part of the west midlands, as does the hon. Member for Coventry South (Mr Cunningham) who asked the original question. My hon. Friend will know that the police innovation fund had a successful bid from the west midlands. That will mean that a new public sector intelligence hub will be created, bringing together local councils, the NHS, other services and the police. That will enable them to share information in a way that will make them much more effective at fighting child sexual exploitation. It is that kind of work that reduces crime.