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Police (Administrative Burdens)

Volume 592: debated on Monday 9 February 2015

We have cut red tape and freed the police from central Government control to enable them to focus on their clear goal, which is to cut crime. The work we have undertaken to reduce bureaucracy could see up to 4.5 million hours of police time saved across all forces every year—the equivalent of more than 2,100 officers back on the beat.

May I put on record my thanks to police officers across Basildon and Thurrock for all their hard work in keeping our community safe? Does this Government’s record show that when it comes to vital services such as the police, with true reform it is possible to do more with less?

My hon. Friend makes a good point. The reforms we have put in place are working, and crime is down overall by more than a fifth since the last election. I join him in saying that work to cut crime is being carried out by police officers and staff day in, day out, and I pay tribute to police officers in Basildon and Thurrock and across the country for that work.

Did the Home Secretary listen this morning to the senior police officer from Essex who said that such are the cut backs to the police that he cannot cope in many areas of his responsibilities, including looking after the roads and keeping them safe despite a growing number of casualties?

Comments about changes to police budgets and the impact that they will have on crime have been made over the past four years—in fact, in 2010 the shadow Home Secretary said that cutting back police budgets would inexorably lead to a rise in crime. That was the implication she gave, and I remind the hon. Gentleman that crime has fallen by more than a fifth since the last general election.

21. My local police in Basingstoke have kept crime down even with the pressure on resources because they can determine how officers are deployed. Does the Home Secretary have plans to introduce any new targets that might take our officers away from those locally determined priorities? (907510)

No. My right hon. Friend is right, and in Hampshire since 2010, recorded crime has fallen by 26%—one of the highest falls across the country. I have no plans to reintroduce the previous Government’s targets, which meant that central Government were trying to tell the police what to do at local level, rather than allowing them to determine what suited their local areas and respond to the needs of local people.

The Home Secretary talks about freeing up police time, but is she aware of the barmy decision by Greater Manchester police to close Reddish police station and ensure that neighbourhood policing teams for Reddish have to parade on at the central Stockport police station? Far from freeing up police time to go on the beat in north and south Reddish, having to travel from the centre of Stockport to their beats is tying up the police. Is that not barmy and what will she do about it?

Operational decisions are taken by the police, but I seem to recall that the police and crime commissioner in Greater Manchester is a former colleague of the hon. Gentleman on the Labour Benches. Perhaps he should talk to him about it.

Rather than reduce unnecessary bureaucracy and make sensible savings, the Home Secretary has chosen to inflict the biggest cuts to our police service of any country in Europe. Government figures out today show a sharp dip of 23% in the number of traffic police, and an increase in road deaths, including a 6% increase for children. Does she accept that she is letting the motorist down, and that under her tenure our roads are now less safe?

No. The hon. Gentleman comments on the cuts made to police budgets, but those cuts were necessary—as were spending cuts across the public sector—because of the situation left by the last Labour Government when we were left facing such a big deficit.