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Neighbourhood Policing

Volume 629: debated on Monday 16 October 2017

1. What assessment she has made of the potential connection between crime levels and changes in the level of neighbourhood policing. (901136)

Crime as measured by the Crime Survey for England and Wales has continued to fall in recent years. That includes the period after 2010, when police forces played their part in tackling the deficit by operating within reduced budgets. Decisions on deployment are rightly made by chief constables, working with their democratically accountable police and crime commissioners to meet local needs.

Order. The Home Secretary was so excited that she neglected to mention that she was seeking to group question 1 with question 4—which is, of course, entirely orderly.

4. What assessment she has made of the potential connection between crime levels and changes in the level of neighbourhood policing. (901139)

A quarter of my local police forces’ operational strength has been cut since 2010. When I visited police in Barnsley this weekend, they told me that they were genuinely worried about how they would continue to operate at the same level if further cuts were made. Does the Home Secretary disagree with officers such as those in Barnsley who say that additional cuts will have a severe impact on neighbourhood policing?

I can reassure the hon. Lady that there are no plans for further cuts, and that the police budget has been protected between 2015 and 2020. I have particular admiration for South Yorkshire police, who recently launched a new neighbourhood policing model that is moving significant resources in neighbourhood policing across the forces’ four districts. That shows exactly how well they are operating.

As the Home Secretary will know, one of the crimes that has increased is the carrying out of attacks on police officers themselves. May I therefore take this opportunity to welcome today’s news that the Government will support the “protect the protectors” Bill, tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant), on Friday?

That having been said, Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary recently warned that

“the position on crime prevention and local policing continues to deteriorate.”

Does the Minister now accept that neighbourhood policing is at the very core of crime prevention, and that it is neighbourhood policing that has had to bear the lion’s share of the loss of 20,000 police officers across the country, much to the detriment of safety in our communities?

The hon. Lady has raised two points. On the first, I agree with her. I welcome the close working to protect the protectors, and we will continue to do that. As for the specific point about the hon. Lady’s local police force, it is good to see that West Yorkshire police is graded as “good” across all three strands, and that HM Inspector of Constabulary Mike Cunningham has said:

“I am very pleased with the overall performance of West Yorkshire Police.”

May that continue.

If the Government are going to support the private Member’s Bill mentioned by the hon. Member for Halifax (Holly Lynch), it is important that the Ministry of Justice and the Crown Prosecution Service play their part as well, and that, when the Sentencing Council suggests that judges give more severe sentences for assaults on police officers and other emergency workers, they do what it says on the tin.

Let me first congratulate my right hon. Friend, and secondly say how much I agree with him. That will not be a surprise, in view of his record in the Chamber on these issues. I will indeed convey his request to the CPS, and ensure that we deliver that.

There is a worrying increase in crime in West Yorkshire, including in my constituency, and it is a fact that the police officers, who are doing a fantastic job, are overstretched. The Government’s first duty should be to protect the public and keep them safe. May I urge the Home Secretary to ensure that more resources go into West Yorkshire to support the police who are tackling that worrying rise in crime?

I agree with my hon. Friend that the first role of Governments is indeed to protect people; as the Conservative party in government, we will make sure that we do that at every step. I can tell my hon. Friend that the total cash funding for West Yorkshire in 2017-18 has increased by £3.7 million since 2015-16, and also that West Yorkshire has police resource reserves of £91 million.

I understand that the right hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead is to become a knight of the realm. I had not been aware of that important fact, but I am now, and I warmly congratulate the right hon. Gentleman, who is evidently absolutely delighted with the status to be conferred upon him.

On the matter of knights, I call Sir Edward Davey.

Given that the Met police are issuing guidelines that some so-called low-level crime will no longer be investigated in London, is it not now crystal clear that Government cuts in community policing are helping criminals and hurting victims? Will the Home Secretary now tell the House that she is campaigning in the Government for a big rise in police funding in the forthcoming Budget?

Let me respectfully observe to the right hon. Gentleman that, having spoken to the Metropolitan Police Commissioner very recently, I know that there is no change in the operating model of the Metropolitan police. They will continue to triage crimes as they arrive in the appropriate way, to ensure that they always prioritise the most important. Conservative Members will always be on the side of the victims, and will always ensure that the police have the right resources to address crime.

Northamptonshire has 1,242 police officers, 488 specials, 860 police staff and 95 police community support officers. Will the Home Secretary congratulate Northamptonshire police on starting a drive to recruit even more police officers this year?

I thank my hon. Friend for that question and will of course join him in congratulating Northamptonshire police. I should add that his force is not the only one increasing recruitment and the number of crimes it is solving. Sometimes, listening to Opposition Members, one could think that the police were not doing the fantastic duty that they are; I urge Opposition Members to take the time sometimes to congratulate them on the phenomenal job they do.