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Police Funding

Volume 620: debated on Monday 23 January 2017

The Government remain committed to reforming the current police funding arrangements to ensure a fairer, more up-to-date and transparent formula.

We are currently undertaking a period of detailed engagement with the policing sector and relevant experts, including academics. Any new formula, of course, will be subject to public consultation.

The current formula for allocating funding to our police forces uses data that are 14 years old. Does the Minister agree that it is time to update that formula?

My hon. Friend makes a very good point, on which I know he has lobbied on behalf of his authority. I have spoken to the police and crime commissioner for Essex as well. It is true that the data are very much out of date. That is why it was in our manifesto to deliver a fairer funding formula review. That is what we are doing, and we will deliver on it.

The Minister will know that Derbyshire’s police force is also disadvantaged by the current formula. When can it expect to have the fair level of funding that it deserves?

Derbyshire will get an increase in funding this year. I appreciate, having spoken to my hon. Friend and other colleagues who have spoken to me on behalf of Derbyshire, that there is a feeling that the formula is not currently fairly weighted with regard to a number of areas across the country. That is why it is important that we go through this process methodically. I am not going to give a timescale now. The sector and experts are working with us on this, and I am confident that we will get to the right position to have a clear, fair and transparent formula in good time.

Does the Minister accept that the current proposed funding settlement for police forces is below the level of inflation? That means that the cost is going to fall on local taxpayers, with a 3.8% rise in my area of north Wales. Is that not just a transfer from central Government to local government?

The Government have put in a flat cash funding protection for police funding during this spending review period, and that is a good thing to do. This situation partly results from the fact that we inherited such an awful economic legacy from the previous Labour Government, who spent money that the country simply did not have. We have to make sure that this country works to live within its means—that is an appropriate and sensible thing to do. I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman and Labour Members should look at doing that in order to have a sensible funding formula in future.

We owe a debt of gratitude to the office of the police and crime commissioner for Devon and Cornwall for having discovered the mistake that led to the pausing of the review, but that was 15 months ago, and there really is no excuse for such a delay. I appreciate that the Minister inherited this problem, but can we please have a timetable so that local police forces and PCCs can know when they can get their funding?

l am as keen as the right hon. Gentleman clearly is to see the new funding formula review work completed so that we can get into place a fair and transparent formula, but it is important that we do this correctly and work with the sector. I thank everybody across the sector, including PCCs and chief constables from whom I have had feedback individually and in the wider groups, and whom I meet regularly. They are very happy with the process we are following and the timescale we are working to. I do not intend to rush anything; I want to make sure that we get this right.

Northamptonshire police are leading the way in combining the delivery of their frontline services together with the local fire brigade. Will the Minister ensure that forces that are undertaking such radical new initiatives to improve local efficiency are rewarded through the new funding formula?

My hon. Friend highlights a really important point. Following the Policing and Crime Bill, emergency services will have the opportunity—in fact, a duty—to collaborate. Bringing together police and fire services provides huge opportunities for rewards in terms of savings by working together more collaboratively to deliver for the frontline. He is right that Northamptonshire has been a leading light in this over the past few years.

The Scottish Police Authority is the only territorial police authority in the United Kingdom that is unable to recover the VAT it pays. That has cost the Scottish public purse £75 million since 2013, and it has consequences for investment and resourcing. The First Minister and the Finance Secretary raised that with the Chancellor earlier this month. What discussions has the Minister had with the Chancellor about this very important issue?

In terms of the work we are doing around police funding, I have regular conversations with the Chief Secretary and the Treasury more generally. I am happy to feed back to the hon. and learned Lady more detail on this issue once we have had our next round of conversations.

Whichever way you cut it, the cake is just too small. More than 20,000 police officers have been cut since 2010, and now we know from the Office for National Statistics that crime is twice as high as the Government say. When will the Minister recognise that the combination of high crime and low police numbers leaves the public at risk?

I would respectfully say to the hon. Lady, who I know would want to be giving a very clear and transparent set of figures, that what she has said is not accurate at all. The reality is that the ONS has, for the very first time, included cyber-crime and fraud in its figures. It has recorded those figures for the first time, so it is not true to say that the figures have doubled. I am just sad that Labour, when in government, never gave these kinds of figures and had that kind of thing done, which is the right thing to do. I would also congratulate people for recording more crime more generally—[Interruption.]

Order. The hon. Member for West Ham (Lyn Brown) does not have to provide us with a passable imitation of Bruce Forsyth. There is no requirement for that. She has asked her question with her usual pugnacity, and should now await the reply.

Thank you, Mr Speaker. People can look for themselves at those ONS figures and see the reality. It is also clear, and I am proud of the fact, that I am part of a Government who have overseen a fall in overall crime since 2010.

The resort area of Cleethorpes has suffered from a spate of vandalism and antisocial behaviour in recent weeks. Will the Minister assure me that adequate resources will be provided to Humberside police and other forces to deal with that sort of antisocial behaviour?

My hon. Friend raises an important point about making sure that there is local accountability through the police and crime commissioners and that they look at where the crime is in their area and where they want to focus their resources, working with excellent chief constables around the country. Of course, we also have the fair funding formula, and agreement on its principles across the sector will contribute towards making it even fairer in the future.