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House of Commons Hansard
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19 December 2017
Volume 633

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With permission, Mr Speaker, I will make a statement on police funding.

Today, I have placed in the House the provisional police funding settlement, detailing how much money each police force in England and Wales will receive in 2018-19. This amounts to a year-on-year increase of up to £450 million across police forces for 2018-19. Taken together with the continued scope to improve police efficiency and the existence of £1.6 billion of police reserves, this represents a comprehensive settlement that makes sure that the police have the resources they need.

Before taking decisions on the settlement, I have spoken to every police force in England and Wales. I have listened to police and crime commissioners, chief constables and frontline officers, asking them to be completely upfront with me about the challenges that they face, and they were. I have been on patrol with officers on the streets of our city centres and I have visited firearms teams and projects to support the most vulnerable in society.

What is very clear to me is that demands on police forces are changing. Crimes traditionally measured by the independent Crime Survey for England and Wales have fallen by well over a third since 2010—I hope the House will welcome that—but, at the same time, it is clear that there is a shifting pattern of demand on the police. There are more victims of high harm—“hidden” crimes such as domestic abuse, modern slavery and child sexual exploitation—as well as more victims of cyber-crime coming forward. That willingness to come forward is to be welcomed, but it does put pressure on policing, to which we must be sensitive. Alongside this, terrorist attacks in London and Manchester have served as a reminder of the very real and changing threat that we face from terrorism. As a Government, we are acutely aware that the demands facing our police forces are considerable and changing. That is why this Government made the decision to protect police funding in the 2015 spending review and it is why, today, we are proposing a settlement for our police that will increase funding for police forces by a further £450 million in 2018-19.

Let me break this down. We propose that police forces get the same cash grant from the centre as in 2017-18. On top of that, we want to respond positively to requests from PCCs for more flexibility around the levels of police precept, so we propose empowering them to raise council tax contributions for local policing by £1 a month per household—£12 a year. If they all use this flexibility, that will result in a £270 million increase in the money that we invest as a society in our policing system.

Five attacks in London and Manchester darkened our spring and early summer. Thirty six people died, 10 of whom were children. The first responsibility of Government is to keep our country and its citizens safe. It is also to protect our way of life and the values that we hold dear. We are clear that we must ensure that counter-terrorism police have the resources they need to deal with the fast-changing and increasingly challenging threat from terrorism. That is why we are also increasing the counter-terrorism policing budget by £50 million in 2018-19. That will mean that the counter-terrorism policing budget will go up by 7%, to at least £757 million next year.

We are also providing an extra £130 million for national priorities such as investment in digital technology and special grants to help forces with exceptional costs. I hope that the House will agree that it is right that the Government continue to provide crucial investment in police technology to make sure that the police have the modern digital infrastructure they need to protect the public, and it is right, surely, that we increase funding for the police special grant so that we can support the police with exceptional and unexpected costs such as the responses to this year’s terrorist attacks. However, to fully meet public expectations, the police cannot simply rely on this additional investment; that is just one part of the equation. Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary and fire and rescue services is clear that there are more opportunities to increase productivity and efficiency, and so are we.

Forces have already achieved significant savings from better procurement since 2015, but there is a lot more to do. I want to see forces unlocking more than £100 million-worth of opportunities for commercial savings that we have helped them to identify. Forces must work together to increase their buying power by procuring goods together, rather than buying them in 43 different ways.

We want modern police forces to make the most of the opportunities that digital technology brings—better information and decisions, faster processes and more productive police officers. Striking research indicates that if all forces took advantage of mobile working as the best forces do, that would mean that an average officer could spend an extra hour a day on the frontline. Extrapolating from that, in theory this has the potential to free up the equivalent of 11,000 extra officers across England and Wales. The Government are committed to meeting the challenges of embracing digital technology and improving productivity, and we want policing to do the same.

The police still hold more than £1.6 billion in financial reserves, compared to £1.4 billion in 2011. The figure has gone up. Current reserves held represent 15% of annual police funding to police and crime commissioners. There are wide variations between forces with Gwent, for example, holding 42% and Northumbria holding 6%. We propose to improve transparency around reserves so that the public are clear whether they are being held for good reasons. That is why we will toughen the guidance on the information that police and crime commissioners must publish, and we will provide comparable national data on police and crime commissioner financial reserves. If the police make substantial progress on efficiency and productivity in 2018, I should signal that the Government intend to provide police and crime commissioners with a broadly similar settlement in 2019-20.

To support this process of reform, police forces will benefit from the £175 million police transformation fund in 2018-2019. Since its inception in 2016, the fund has already invested £220 million in policing projects, including £8.5 million for forces to better tackle modern slavery and £40 million to help the police to improve their response to serious and organised crime. It is clear that the fund, led by police, is delivering real results and enabling forces to invest in transformation and digitisation for the future.

I end by recognising the exceptional attitude and hard work of our brave police forces around the country. We have listened to their concerns, and we have now proposed a funding settlement that will strengthen the police’s ability to fight crime and keep us all safe. Whether it is local forces or counter-terrorism capabilities, this is a comprehensive settlement to strengthen the police now and make forces fit for the future. We will now consult on the police grant report and I look forward to hearing views from across the House. I commend this statement to the House.

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The test of the Government’s police funding proposals is the impact they will have on policing and counter-terrorism activity on the ground. The Minister can spin a convincing story here in the Chamber, but will what he is announcing really enable police forces to meet the challenge and reality of modern policing?

The Minister says that he has been listening to chief constables and police and crime commissioners. The Opposition would contend that he has not been listening hard enough. Is the Minister aware that we have seen the highest annual rise in police recorded crime for more than a decade? That includes an 18% rise in violent crime, a 26% rise in the murder rate, and a rise in knife and gun crime that is of particular concern to our major cities. Is he aware that the public are increasingly conscious that austerity is as damaging to policing as it is to other public services, because we cannot keep people safe on the cheap? Is he further aware that although the Government’s announcement that they are lifting the police pay cap is welcome, they have not funded it, so it must therefore put even more pressure on police budgets?

Is the Minister aware that police leaders all over the country are expressing their concern about the funding gap? He spoke about the scope for increasing police efficiency. Many forces including my force, the Metropolitan police, have done a great deal on police efficiency. He spoke about embracing digital technology. I recently met the chief constable of Greater Manchester police, who briefed me on the great work they are doing with digital technology. The Minister also mentioned reserves. I must say that it defeats many police leaders why the Government think that they can meet recurrent expenditure out of reserves.

All in all, the Opposition doubt whether this package—even including the Government’s proposals on the precept—will really meet the policing challenges of the 21st century. This is why the chief constable of Merseyside is warning that he does not have the resources to fight gun crime and the chief constable of Norfolk is warning of the reduction in the numbers of neighbourhood police officers. The chief constable of Lancashire has stated that people are “less safe” because of the money and people “taken out of policing”, and Northumbria’s chief constable has said:

“If the day of not being able to provide a professional service was here, I would say. It is not here, but it is getting very, very close.”

Is the Minister confident that his funding settlement will allow forces to remain at current staff levels? And can he give an undertaking that there will be no more cuts to police numbers?

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I know that the right hon. Lady has been on a bit of a personal journey in her relationship with the police, having previously called for the police to be dismantled and replaced with our own machinery of class rule. We welcome her journey.

The right hon. Lady accuses me of not listening to the police, even though I have spoken to every single police force in England and Wales to fully understand the pressures they face. Before criticising the proposed settlement without investigating the details, I suggest that she speak to the PCCs, who have welcomed it. If she had done her homework, she would also be aware that our demand review was worked out in co-operation with the police-led review. That asked for a similar amount of new investment in 2018. This Government have listened to the police, and we are talking about an increase in investment of £450 million.

The right hon. Lady referred to us doing policing on the cheap. That will come as a bit of a surprise to the British taxpayer, given that as a society, we will be investing £13 billion in our police system next year. That is up from £11.9 billion in 2015-16. She chides me on reserves. Let us remind ourselves that reserves are public money sitting there, and the public we serve have the right to better information about how the police intend to spend that money for the public good.

The right hon. Lady talked about what the proposed settlement means for police officer numbers. She knows that the position of the Government is that our responsibility is to ensure—in close consultation with the police—that the police have the resources that they need. It is for local police and crime commissioners and local chiefs to determine how those resources are to be allocated. That feels like the right approach.

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In deploying the substantial new resources for counter-terrorism, does the Minister agree that the police should include a strong focus on cyber-crime because of the harm and disruption that terrorists could do with this form of activity?

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I thank my right hon. Friend for making that point. If there is a powerful symbol of the change in the pattern of demand on policing, it is how much crime is now digitally enabled. We know from our constituencies how vulnerable our constituents are; they are many times more likely to be vulnerable to a crime online than they are on the street. That is part of the change in policing that we have to respond to, which is why we have just under £2 billion-worth of investment earmarked for cyber-security.

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I thank the Minister for prior sight of the statement.

Let me be charitable and start by welcoming one aspect of the statement, namely the £50 million increase in counter-terrorism resources. However, I echo entirely the sentiment of the right hon. Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) that, given the huge pressure on the police service in England and Wales, a flat-cash core settlement from the Government is simply not enough. In doing so, I pay tribute to all police officers right across the UK for the hard and oftentimes dangerous work they do to keep us safe.

Just last week, the Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Derek Mackay, committed to increasing the police authority’s Government-allocated budget in real terms in 2018-19—a clear difference from the approach taken by this Government. In March 2017, there were 32 officers per 10,000 population in Scotland, compared with around 21 officers per 10,000 population in England and Wales—over one third more police officers per head keeping Scots safe.

In Scotland, public confidence in the police remains strong. Recorded crime is at a 42-year low, recidivism is at a 16-year low and police clear-up rates are the highest for 40 years. That is all while, in the words of Calum Steele, the general secretary of the Scottish Police Federation, UK Government cuts

“have put almost immeasurable financial stress”

on public services, including the police. He went on to highlight the fact that the police VAT relief could have been delivered with the stroke of a political pen, and that inaction put further unnecessary stress on police funding.

Following a sustained SNP campaign, we welcomed the Chancellor’s announcement in the Budget that Police Scotland and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service will be eligible to reclaim VAT in the future. However, in the spirit of today’s statement, will the Minister commit to requesting that the Chancellor also reimburse the £125 million already taken from frontline police services in Scotland so that it can be used for future reinvestment in Scottish policing?

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I thank the hon. Gentleman for his reply. It is fair to say that there are mixed views across Scotland about the benefits of merging all the forces into one, and time will tell. However, I thank him for his welcome for the additional £50 million for counter-terrorism policing.

The hon. Gentleman talks about a flat-cash settlement. It is no such thing; we are talking about an increase of £450 million in investment and, at the local police level, a move, effectively, from flat cash to flat real.

The hon. Gentleman talks about cuts. Again, he is allowed his own opinions, but he is not allowed his own version of the facts. Overall, public investment in policing will grow from £11.9 billion in 2015-16 to £13 billion next year if these proposals are accepted by the House. That is not a cut in my language.

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As a London MP, may I start by paying tribute to the officers who do an extraordinary job of keeping us safe in London?

The Minister will know that, since 2015, the Met has received £2.5 billion of direct funding. There is more funding for London in today’s settlement, there is the opportunity to raise £43 million and there is an extra £50 million going into counter-terrorism. Does the Minister agree that it is time the Mayor started playing his part by protecting frontline numbers at police stations?

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I thank my hon. Friend. As a fellow London MP, I join him, as I am sure will all London MPs, in congratulating Met police officers on the work they do. He singled out the implications of this settlement for the London Met, which is rightly the best-resourced police force in the country in terms of numbers of police officers and funding per head.

My hon. Friend is right about his fundamental point, and it is one that the Labour party refuses to embrace. We operate a system in which accountability for police forces is devolved and rests with the police and crime commissioner or the Mayor. In London, that means the Mayor, and I would gently suggest to the Mayor that the combination of this increased investment, the reserves and the opportunities for greater efficiency means that what we need to see from him is action rather than more letters calling for more money.

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I would just ask the Policing Minister to confirm that a flat-cash grant to local police forces in fact means a real cut, given the level of inflation; that the money from central Government to police forces will be cut in real terms; and that while the counter-terror funding is welcome, the police chief Sara Thornton has warned:

“Fewer officers and police community support officers will cut off the intelligence that is so crucial to preventing attacks.”

I gently say to him that I am sure he must know in his heart of hearts that this is really not enough funding for police forces across the country, given the immense pressures they face. He and the Home Secretary will really need to make a much better case to the Chancellor; otherwise, they will be threatening the good work of police forces right across the country.

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I hesitate to correct our very distinguished Chairman of the Select Committee—for whom I have great respect—and I welcome the welcome she has given to increased investment in counter-terrorism policing, but I do need to correct what she said. Once she has time to get into the details of the settlement, she will see that, in effect, we propose to move from flat cash at local police force area level to flat real, on Treasury assumptions. That is a significant shift. When she gets into the detail of it, she will see—[Interruption.] No, I am afraid that the cries from Opposition Front-Bench Members reflect the fact that they have not had time to read the statement or to understand the dynamics of the police funding settlement.

The right hon. Lady will know, or should know, that, in the context of the 2015 police funding settlement, there are two components to flat cash at local police level: one is the grant from the centre, and the other is the precept. In the context of increased precept, the cash from the centre would have fallen. It is not going to fall; it is going to be held flat. That means that, in terms of what police and crime commissioners would have expected for 2018-19, there is a £60 million upflip from keeping the grant from the centre flat, rather than reducing it, which is what would have happened under the 2015 settlement. It is complicated, but the right hon. Lady will see from the—[Interruption.] That is not being disingenuous; these are the facts.

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Hampshire’s constabulary, under the excellent leadership of Olivia Pinkney, does a fantastic job in meeting the changing policing needs my hon. Friend talked about. However, what has not changed is the need for frontline policing. What can he do to make sure that more of the money he has talked about today gets to the frontline to increase the frontline policing our constituents so badly want to see?

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I wholly endorse my right hon. Friend’s praise for the work of Olivia Pinkney, as the chief of Hampshire. The short answer to her question is that it is the local police and crime commissioner who is accountable for how resource is allocated. If it is the local view that more resources need to go into frontline police officers, that is something the police and crime commissioner has to respond to. Our duty is to make sure that police forces have the resources we think they need to do the job. How those resources are allocated at a local level is the responsibility of the democratically accountable police and crime commissioner.

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What an extraordinary exercise in spin. The statement says very clearly: “We propose that police forces get the same cash from the centre as in 2017-18”, so that is a real-terms cut from the centre. Will the Minister explain, given the additional pressures on South Wales police politically—with Cardiff being a capital city, and the pressures that that places on police in Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan—whether we will be getting any additional support?

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I hesitate to correct the hon. Gentleman, but I am afraid that, once those on the Labour Benches take a bit more time to understand how the police settlement actually works, they will know that the flat-cash settlement is a combination of precept and the grant from the centre. Taking those in combination, local police forces are going to move from a situation of flat cash to flat real. That is a significant change. If the hon. Gentleman bothers to go and talk to his local PCC, which I am sure he will, the PCC will explain it to him.

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I thank my hon. Friend for this very encouraging statement, particularly around flexibility in the police precept—an issue he knows I have been campaigning on for some time. However, will he confirm that the settlement will dramatically improve policing across Essex and particularly on my much overlooked sunshine coast at Clacton-on-Sea?

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I thank my hon. Friend and other Essex colleagues who were very forceful and constructive in coming to me with clear endorsements from police and crime commissioners across the system for the proposals on increased flexibility on precepts so that democratically accountable police and crime commissioners have the freedom to increase local taxes for local priorities. Roger Hirst, an excellent police and crime commissioner, has surveyed several thousand people in Essex. The results of that survey show that what we are proposing today will be extremely acceptable to the people of Essex because they want to see more investment in their policing, and that is what this settlement will deliver.

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Were I still a police and crime commissioner, I could not maintain the same level of policing on this budget, and the Minister must know that. The reality is that with inflationary pressures in general terms and the need to fund a legitimate police rise, and, on top of that, the increasing demand for policing services, it simply is not possible to maintain public safety. He really has got to stand up and tell the public the truth. This is not a fair settlement.

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Again, I hesitate to correct someone who knows what he is talking about, but the hon. Gentleman is talking as though this settlement is proposed in complete isolation. He and Labour Front Benchers are ignoring the fact that we work closely with police chiefs and the PCCs. The independent review that the PCCs and chiefs undertook, independently of Government, came to a very similar conclusion about what was needed in terms of funding for 2018-19. We have listened to them and delivered on that. It is their view that we are most interested in.

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I welcome more funding. Does the Minister, like me, recognise that Cambridgeshire has done an outstanding job in introducing 50 new recruits at the same time as making efficiencies?

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I certainly join my hon. and learned Friend is supporting the work that Cambridgeshire has done, under excellent leadership. The evidence of that is in its HMIC rating of “good”. I know that it will welcome the increased investment and put that money to good use. Labour Members still do not seem to accept the maths; I know that that is not their strength. The maths says that an increase in investment of £450 million is in fact an increase.

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I am sorry, but I need, for my simplistic mind, to have some clarity on the Minister’s statement that forces will get the same cash from the centre as in 2017-19. It may be that North Wales police’s precept goes up and my local council tax payers pay more in a hard-hit area, raising perhaps less than in Surrey, but at the same time we have, according to my chief constable, a 35% increase in crime, an 18% reduction in staff, and £30 million of savings already made. This settlement is simply not good enough. Speaking as someone who was Policing Minister when we had 21,000 more police officers than now, I say to the Minister that he needs to go back to the drawing board.

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I would suggest that the former Policing Minister talk to his PCC, who will explain why a flat-cash grant from the centre is actually an improvement on what he or she was expecting. I will leave them to explain that. The right hon. Gentleman talks about reserves. I come back to the fundamental point. It is public money—£1.6 billion, a figure that has gone up since 2011. There is a very good reason for holding reserves, but we need more transparency and accountability about local police plans to use what is ultimately public money.

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I welcome the Minister’s announcement of £130 million for national priorities. Can he confirm that dealing with online child abuse is a national priority, and therefore that the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre and the National Crime Agency will be receiving more resource to help them to combat this growing menace?

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I can certainly agree that it is a national priority because of its increased prevalence in public life. It is something that matters a great deal. The Minister for Security, who is sitting alongside me, and I continue to make sure that the NCA is properly resourced to do that work.

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Residents in Walthamstow are deeply perturbed following a rise in violent gang and drug-related crime, and the evidence from the Met commissioner herself that London is losing 3,000 police officers in the coming years. No mobile app is going to address that. It is individuals, not iPads, that people want to see on their streets. Can the Minister confirm that he will make available to the Met the money needed to keep those 3,000 police officers, or is “flat real” a crime against the English language?

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No. I am a fellow London MP and I have spoken to the commissioner. Any PCCs or police chiefs making projections about losses of officer numbers in future are doing so on the basis that they do not know what the police funding settlement is. I expect and hope that when they look at what we are proposing today in terms of new investment—and it is new investment, given the continued scope for efficiencies and the level of reserves—they will see that there is no reason why any police force should be reducing officer numbers. However, it is ultimately a local decision.

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Community-based policing is the cornerstone of policing in Hertsmere and has a much valued role. I welcome the flexibility that the Minister has shown over the precept. However, what reassurance can he give me that community-based policing will be properly funded in small towns such as Potters Bar that might be disadvantaged relative to larger urban areas?

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I thank my hon. Friend for welcoming an increase of £450 million in our policing system next year. That feeds down into an additional £6.2 million for Hertfordshire. I absolutely take his point about community policing. He needs to have that conversation with David Lloyd, the excellent police and crime commissioner.

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The Met commissioner and Sara Thornton have both said that tackling terrorism places a heavy burden on all aspects of policing. At the last general election, the Liberal Democrats called for the Government to spend £300 million extra on community policing. How much more does the Minister think will be spent on community policing to enable those officers to assist with tackling not only terrorism but antisocial behaviour, violent crime, and domestic violence?

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Again, as a fellow London MP I say to the right hon. Gentleman that our role is to propose a settlement that we think is comprehensive in making sure that the police have the resources they need to do the job against the background of a shifting pattern in demand. It is a very complex environment. With regard to London, which has the best resourced police force in the country, I am satisfied, as a London MP, that the Met has the resources it needs. If the Mayor, as the policing and crime commissioner, disagrees with that, he has his own resources to contribute as well, which he has been very reluctant to do. How those resources are allocated to some of the priorities that the right hon. Gentleman mentions is a decision for the Mayor and the Met on which they are both accountable to us as MPs and the constituents we serve.

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I welcome my hon. Friend’s statement, particularly in giving PCCs more flexibility regarding the levels of the police precept—a measure that Staffordshire MPs and our police and crime commissioner, Matthew Ellis, have been calling for. Does he agree that giving police and crime commissioners more flexibility and power regarding the precept is ensuring that PCCs are making decisions about funding that they are democratically accountable for?

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I could not agree more. One of the great reforms that we have made in policing is to make sure that there is much more local accountability on the performance of the police. I thank my hon. Friend for welcoming precept flexibility. She is quite right. Matthew Ellis and other police and crime commissioners have been very vocal in pressing for this because they want that flexibility in order to be able to deliver on their crime plans.

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What universe is the Minister living in? We have seen nearly 40% of police stations cut over the past seven years, thousands upon thousands of police officers cut, police community support officers cut, and police staff cut, and now we see a rise in violent crime. He refuses to acknowledge in his statement that it is proposed that police forces get the same cash from the centre as in 2017-18—a real-terms cut. That is what is going to happen to police forces like my own in Nottinghamshire and those up and down the country.

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The universe I am living in is the real one, where public resources are tight and we have to proceed on an evidenced basis. Labour is giving the same old response: more money, more money—whoops, we ran out of money. It is the same as ever; it never changes. When Labour Members read the detail and understand how it works, they will see that we are proposing a combination of things that will result in an increase of £450 million in our investment in our policing system.

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The Minister knows that I have set out my concerns about the capacity of Bedfordshire police in person with him, and in an Adjournment debate. I am grateful for the extra £2.9 million in the statement for Bedfordshire police, but will he explain more fully what he sees as the future of the force?

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May I place on record my admiration for the tireless work that my hon. Friend has done over many years, through a cycle of many Policing Ministers, to advocate for a fairer funding settlement for Bedfordshire? I thank him for his welcome of today’s settlement, and he will note the increase in counter-terrorism policing. In the written ministerial statement, he will see information about the direction of travel of the fair funding review, which we think is most appropriately dealt with in the next spending review.

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Before I ask my question, Mr Speaker, I wonder whether you have noticed that although the Minister handed out his statement to us, he did not hand out the table containing details of the settlement? Of course, he was hoping that we would not get it so that we would not notice that in Durham, for example, the change in cash is less than inflation and less than the pay rise. Therefore, there will be more cuts on top of our previous loss of 350 police officers.

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The table to which the hon. Lady refers is attached to the written ministerial statement. [Interruption.] If that is not the case, I will investigate. I think Opposition Members are failing to distinguish between the oral statement and the laying of the grant formula, which has happened in parallel. They can find that table.

The hon. Lady is lucky to represent a constituency that is served by an outstanding police force. She will find that as a result of this settlement, if the PCC maximises precept flexibility, the cash increase for the force will be around £2.4 million. When Opposition Members get into the detail, they will see that the Government’s intention is to make sure that if local police and crime commissioners maximise their precept flexibility, forces will move from flat cash to flat real. Hon. Members will see that in the written statement.

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Further to the observation with which the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Helen Goodman) prefaced her question, I think the correct position is that the table to which reference has been made, and which some Members have been ostentatiously brandishing, is electronically accessible but I am advised that it was not delivered either to the Library or to the Vote Office. I think it would help in these matters, particularly where complex formulae are involved, if the material could be available at the time of the commencement of the statement. I do not wish to dwell on the matter further. The Minister has said what he has said, and I thank him for saying it.

I call Mr Richard Grosvenor Plunkett-Ernle-Erle-Drax.

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Thank you, Mr Speaker. I think I shall demand an urgent question if this continues.

I thank my hon. Friend for the increase in police funding, but I would be failing in my duty if I did not speak up for the funding of Dorset police, which have been underfunded for years. Does my hon. Friend agree that although things such as cyber-crime are taking police officers off the streets—the police are doing a wonderful job—we need to keep a uniformed presence on the ground, because that is where the deterrent is most effective and the intelligence is gathered?

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Mr Speaker, may I place on record the fact that I note your earlier remarks?

I thank my hon. Friend for recognising the changes that have occurred in society. I know for sure that my constituents are much more vulnerable to crime online than they are when they walk up and down Ruislip high street, and our policing needs to respond to that. I also understand the importance that our constituents attach to seeing the police on our streets. Getting the balance right around capabilities is the job that we have given to police chiefs and democratically accountable local police and crime commissioners. I thank him for welcoming the increase in investment, and I am sure that he will make representations to his police and crime commissioner about the allocation of the additional resources.

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Given the huge number of A and B council tax band properties in Birmingham, is not the reality of the proposals that the poorest people in Birmingham are going to pay the most for a declining police service, in what is becoming the worst-funded police force in the country?

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The hon. Gentleman and I, along with other west midlands MPs, had a constructive conversation about the challenges of policing in the region. I simply do not see how local people will be worse off, as he is trying to suggest, from an increase of £450 million in investment in our police system next year, including an additional £9.5 million for the West Midlands police. I do not see how he can, with any real integrity, present that as downgrading the police force.

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I am sure the Minister will join me in congratulating Thames Valley police on their outstanding ranking in the police effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy review. Will he also tell us how the funding settlement takes into account the needs of rural policing?

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My hon. Friend makes an extremely important point, and I join him in congratulating Thames Valley on its outstanding rating, which I know it takes great pride in. Rural policing is extremely important to many constituents. I come back to the central point, which is that we have devolved accountability and responsibility in the police system. The allocation of new resources and new investment in our policing is a conversation to be had with the local democratically elected police and crime commissioner. I know from personal conversation that they take the matter extremely seriously.

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Will the Minister clarify that we are talking about a real-terms fixed amount for police and crime commissioners’ budgets, and that in reality we are taxing the most vulnerable more to pay for those services? The PCC is saying to me that the top-slicing will lead to a reduction in policing on our streets.

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I encourage the hon. Gentleman to go back and talk to his PCC and police chief. The reality of our proposal is that we will increase investment in our police system by £450 million next year, and that we will work towards broadly the same kind of settlement in 2019-2020. That is a reflection of our recognition that demand on the police has changed and become more complex. We have to respond to that and invest accordingly. The basic rule is that public investment comes from two sources: extra borrowing and taxation. That is the choice in the real world in which we live.

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rose—

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Forgive me; I am uncertain. If the hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mrs Badenoch) can confirm to me that she was present at the start of the statement—

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indicated assent.

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That is good enough for me—she will be heard.

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I and several other Essex MPs requested more flexibility in the application of the precept, and we welcome the Minister’s statement. Does he agree that it is a good example of the Government devolving power to local communities and giving them more control over their own policing?

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I do, and I will go further than that. The statement is an exercise in demonstrating that the Government have listened closely to the police. We have challenged the police, but we have listened to them, and our proposals are very similar to what they asked for. That fact has been ignored by Labour Members. We have listened to police and crime commissioners, who have said, “We would like to increase investment and be empowered to increase local investment in local priorities, and we would like more flexibility around the precept because we think that we can present that to our people.” They have tested that idea in surveys and encountered a very positive reaction from the public.

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The legacy of the Government’s cuts means that there are fewer officers per head than at any time on record. Can the Minister explain how that is making communities in my constituency safer?

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Let me say two things to the hon. Lady. Let us attack the fake news that cuts are being made to police funding. The amount of public investment that we make, as a society, in our police system will have grown from £11.9 billion in 2015-16 to £13 billion next year if these proposals are accepted. I do not see how that can possibly be presented as a cut. When she has digested the news, I hope she will also welcome the increased investment for her area, and that she will discuss with her local police and crime commissioner how these additional resources can best be allocated for the benefit of her communities.

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Of course, the money to pay for more police has to come from somewhere. I am happy to accept the principle that communities choosing to have more resource should pay more towards it, but the proviso must clearly be that they definitively see more warranted officers. Does my hon. Friend accept that in counties such as Suffolk, communities are clear that they want such officers to have a more visible presence in our villages and rural areas, as well as in our towns?

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I thank my hon. Friend for his question, and I completely understand his point. He has made it very strongly to me, and I know he will make it very strongly, as he has done, to the Suffolk police and crime commissioner and the chief constable if that is what he thinks his constituents need.

On my hon. Friend’s point about local taxation, I should say that no decision about increasing council tax precepts is taken lightly. This Government take a lot of pride in what we have done over many years in trying to keep council tax as low as possible, which is in stark contrast to Labour Members because it doubled under their watch. Even in these difficult times, we feel the proposal of an additional £1 a month to get more investment in local policing is acceptable to the public, not least because PCCs have tested it.

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I do not believe the Minister’s argument is well served when there is an absence of facts in the discussion in this Chamber, and perhaps the information in the tables should have been provided. In Lancashire, we have rising crime and falling budgets. Nationally, we have lost 21,000 police officers. This is a simple question: in 2018-19, will there be more officers on the beat or fewer officers on the beat under this Government?

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Again, the hon. Gentleman has not been listening. He will know that he needs to ask the police and crime commissioner that question. He can ask the Lancashire police and crime commissioner what he is going to do with the additional £6.1 million of investment proposed as a result of this settlement and, by the way, what he is doing with his reserves—currently worth 18% of net revenue, which is above the national average. I suggest the hon. Gentleman has such a conversation with his local police and crime commissioner.

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Essex police officers do an excellent job—we are already delivering mobile working and joint working with the fire service—and it is certainly not sitting on a hidden stash of reserves, but we are one of the lowest funded forces in the country. Being able to raise the precept will deliver an extra £8.8 million, which is a helpful start. Next year, will the Minister look at fairer funding models, so that lean and efficient forces such as Essex police are not put at a disadvantage?

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I thank my hon. Friend, and I join her in congratulating Essex police on its work. Essex is excellently led at both PCC and chief constable level, and she is quite right to point out that it has a relatively low level of reserves, at 8% of net revenue compared with a national average of 15%. I can give her a twofold assurance. She will see in the statement that there is an intention to work towards broadly the same type of settlement in 2019-20, which will allow additional precept flexibility for Essex. We are also clear in the statement that the work on the so-called fair funding review is not lost; we just feel that the most appropriate point at which to revisit it is in the context of the next spending review.

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What the Minister has done today is to pass the buck from the Government to local police and crime commissioners. He has done this at a time when the West Midlands force has lost £145 million in real terms in the past seven years, and 200 officers are no longer there to keep the public safe. Does the Minister not accept that if the tables were turned, and Conservative Members were in opposition facing a Government who had cut police numbers by over 20,000, they would be screaming about the injustice of it from the rooftops?

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I am puzzled by the right hon. Gentleman’s attitude, because we are talking about an increase of investment for the West Midlands of £9.5 million for 2018-19, if the local police and crime commissioner maxes the precept flexibility. I cannot see how that can be a cut. He will also be aware that his force, which is excellently led, is relatively rich in terms of the reserves it holds. They are worth 20% of its net annual revenue, a number that has actually grown. He will have lots to raise in his conversations with his police and crime commissioner and chief constable about how this increased investment can benefit his community.

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Today’s announcement is welcome news, and I am pleased to hear that the Minister has spoken to and listened extensively to police authorities and PCCs, including in the West Midlands. I am grateful to him for taking the time to enable me to raise some of the issues in my constituency regarding frontline policing and our Remembrance Day parades, which are so important to us. Does he agree that this extra investment and greater flexibility for police and crime commissioners will allow them to support all of our local communities, including those in my constituency?

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I thank my hon. Friend, and I again place on the record that she has been tireless in her advocacy on behalf of her constituents and in challenging me about police resources. I hope that she will welcome the additional investment in her police force, if the police and crime commissioner maximises the precept flexibility, and she will be looking forward to holding the PCC to account on how those resources are allocated.

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Londoners are absolutely sick and tired of the spectacle of Tory MPs crying crocodile tears in their local papers about police station closures, and then coming to the House to cheerlead the cuts that make them necessary, but perhaps that is why London Tory MPs are an endangered species. Is not what the Minister has announced today the worst of all worlds? He is asking people to pay more in taxes, he is cutting support from central Government and he is still not giving the police the funding they need to tackle the crime that is blighting our communities.

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Now the hon. Gentleman has got that entirely artificial rant out of his system, let us examine the facts. The proposals to close police stations are controversial in London, but they are the decisions not of the Government but of the democratically elected—as it happens, Labour—Mayor, and he is accountable for that. The Mayor has got most such decisions wrong, but I see he is changing many of them—he certainly is in my area—and I congratulate him on doing so. The fact of the matter is that the Metropolitan police, and I speak as a London MP, is relatively well resourced as compared with the rest of the system.

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Get real!

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The hon. Gentleman tells me to get real, but the reality is that if we look at the performance of the London Met now as compared with 2008, there are—on the latest figures I have seen—100,000 fewer crime incidents and broadly the same number of police officers, and it is £700 million a year cheaper for it to run the policing system. In his world, those are cuts; in my world, they are efficiencies. The Met does a great job and is on a journey to becoming even more efficient, and this funding settlement, with the increased investment for it, will help it to do so.

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Will the Policing Minister confirm that his settlement gives an extra £3.5 million to Northamptonshire police, which is an increase of 2.9% against a national average of 2.4%, and therefore represents further good news for a police force that is rated good for efficiency and has been busy recruiting new police officers?

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I thank my hon. Friend for that, but his is not the only force that is recruiting more police officers. His force also stands out as one of the most effective in maximising the benefits of collaboration with other blue light services. I thank him for welcoming the additional £3.5 million of investment in the local policing system, if the PCC maximises his precept flexibility.

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Despite the dedicated work of officers in Gwent police and South Wales police—my constituency covers parts of both forces—the pressure on frontline policing is greater than it has been for many years. Under the heading “Additional Rule 1” in the documents published today, South Wales police will face a reduction of £13,416,000 and Gwent police, which is one of the smallest forces, will face a reduction of £917,247. That is a cut—a reduction. It is less money whichever way the Minister tries to dress it up. With the Office for National Statistics saying that visible policing is lower than it has been in many a year, how can the Minister justify the Government’s position that they are keeping this country safe?

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Again, I refer the hon. Gentleman to table 1 on the “Provisional change in total direct resource funding compared to 2017/18”—I apologise to Labour Members if they do not have it to hand—which tells me that, if the proposals are accepted, and they are out for consultation, South Wales will see an additional £6.7 million cash increase in investment; and Gwent, which we should note is sitting on reserves worth 42% of its income, will receive a cash increase of £3 million. Again, I do not see how that can be a cut in anyone’s language.

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Lincolnshire’s police and crime commissioner tells me that he considers the precept changes to be very good news, so I welcome the Minister’s statement. Can he confirm that the unique challenges faced by large, rural and sparsely populated counties, such as Lincolnshire, will be addressed by additional money for digital transformation?

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Lincolnshire police are a good example of a force that feels under a great deal of pressure at the moment, so I am glad that the PCC has welcomed the settlement, as most have. I am sure that Labour MPs, when they talk to their PCCs and chiefs, will recognise that this settlement is better than many of them expected. My hon. Friend’s point about digital transformation is absolutely fundamental, and Lincolnshire police are a leader in that regard. I remember sitting around a table in their police headquarters listening to a young officer talking about how mobile working and the platform that has been developed there has transformed the force’s efficiency and productivity. I repeat my previous statement about the amount of police officers’ time that can saved by embracing the full digital potential. The Government are determined to support the police in achieving that.

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The Minister has visited Durham’s outstanding police force. He has said that he is listening to chiefs and to police and crime commissioners. Both Ron Hogg, the Labour PCC, and Mike Barton, the chief constable, have raised with him a particular problem that Durham has, which is that 50% of our properties are in band A, so relying on precept to cover the hole that has developed as a result of cuts to central funding is not a long-term solution for Durham. With pay increases and inflation, it will mean a cut in policing in Durham. Before he tells me that they have to become more efficient and work better, let me tell him that they have done all that and been rewarded for it. Can he suggest what the long-term solution is for forces, such as Durham’s, that have that problem?

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I know that the hon. Gentleman has not seen the table, but it shows that if the proposals are accepted and the PCC does what we are empowering him to do, Durham will receive a cash increase of £2.4 million next year. I suggest that he goes back to Mike and Ron and asks whether that is helpful, because I suspect that the answer will be yes.

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I look forward to studying the Minister’s proposals in detail. Suffolk constabulary is an efficient force, but it is historically underfunded and faces a whole variety of modern-day pressures, such as responding so quickly to the incident at RAF Mildenhall yesterday. Can the Minister confirm that he will continue to work with the PCC, Tim Passmore, and Suffolk MPs to put the funding of Suffolk police on a sustainable, long-term footing?

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Yes, I can give that undertaking, and I am more than happy to maintain that conversation with the hon. Member for North Durham (Mr Jones) as well. I have visited Suffolk police, as I have visited Durham police, and had conversations with Suffolk MPs. I know that the settlement is a step on a journey, which is why we are keen to signal the direction of travel for 2019-20 in the written statement, but the facts of the matter remain: this represents an increase of £450 million in investment in our policing system in England and Wales. I hope that colleagues across the House, once they have digested that, will welcome it.

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The stark reality in Merseyside is that we have lost 1,000 police officers and £100 million from our budget, and we have rising crime—violent crime and gun crime. Merseyside MPs have lobbied Ministers time and again to deal with the financial problems in our police force. Our chief constable, Andy Cooke, has described the force as being “stretched to the limits” in a way he has never seen before. Are the Government really proud of their record on protecting British citizens on our streets?

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We are proud that crime has fallen by a third on our watch. I recognise—because I have visited the force and spoken to Andy personally—that Merseyside police, like many police forces across the country, clearly feel very stretched at the moment. That is why, having done this review, we have gone back, looked at the settlement, listened to the police and the PCCs and come forward with proposals that will increase investment in the policing system by £450 million, including an additional £5.2 million for Merseyside next year, if the PCC maximises his flexibility.

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The Mayor of London took the decision to cut the policing budget by £38 million this year, while stockpiling reserves that are equivalent to 10% of funding and overseeing an increase in serious crime. I welcome the statement, which will allow the Mayor to reverse that decision and allow the increase for Metropolitan police funding by up to £43 million. Does the Minister agree that this shows that with the Conservatives people get good results and sound management, and that with Labour they get neither?

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I agree. Labour MPs are chuntering about tax increases, but when they call for more investment, where do they think it will come from? I was accused earlier of passing the buck. The reality—I know that the Labour party does not like it—is that we have changed the model so that the public can see clearer lines of responsibility and accountability for the performance of their police service, and in London that means the Mayor. Instead of sitting in his bunker writing letters asking for more money, the Mayor should get out there and tell us what he is doing to implement his crime plan.

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Two thousand West Midlands police officers have gone. Crime is up by 15%. There have been nine stabbings and shootings in Erdington in recent months. Pensioners are afraid to go out at night. Shopkeepers are saying that people are increasingly afraid to come out and shop at night. They all had hoped that their voice would be heard by the Government. A flat cash settlement delivering £9.5 million will come nowhere near the £22 million that West Midlands police need in order to stand still. That will mean further reductions in police numbers and betraying the first duty of any Government, which is the safety and security of their citizens.

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I am not sure whether the hon. Gentleman is welcoming the additional £9.5 million of investment or not. We had a very sensible and constructive conversation with the rest of the west midlands MPs, and I think that he knows in his heart of hearts that when he goes back to speak with his chief and his police and crime commissioner, they will tell him that it is a better settlement than they expected.

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I welcome the Minister’s statement, his engagement with police and crime commissioners across the country and the policing innovation we are seeing in Northamptonshire. Is he, like me, pleased that this Government did not adopt the approach of cutting the policing budget by 10%, which Opposition Members were arguing for not that long ago?

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That certainly was recommended by a previous shadow Home Secretary—he was more moderate than the current shadow Home Secretary, who is on record as saying that she wanted to dismantle the police. I thank my hon. Friend for welcoming the settlement, and I am sure that he will have constructive conversations with his PCC about how the additional £3.5 million will be spent next year in the best interests of his constituents.

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My constituents have seen what this Government have meant for local policing: fewer officers on their streets and crime on the rise. Will the Minister confirm that even though he must know that council tax is highly regressive, he is asking those same constituents, many of whom are low paid or on fixed incomes, to pay more while he will not provide a penny more and central Government grant is falling in real terms?

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I hesitate to challenge a local MP, but the fact of the matter is that Nottinghamshire police are one of a number of forces that intend to increase officer numbers next year. The hon. Lady talks about tax, and of course this is a hugely sensitive issue, but we should not lose sight of the fact—I have not said this before—that it is not mandatory for PCCs to impose this increase if they feel that it is not the right thing to do; it is about flexibility. In reality, because many of them have tested it—she will have her own view in Nottingham as to whether an additional £1 a month for investment in local policing is an acceptable proposition—each area will have a different view on that.

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I have never heard so many Tories come into the Chamber and welcome a council tax increase. The look on the Minister’s face while he has been standing at the Dispatch Box—if he walked down the street, he would be stopped and searched. He has one hand in the pocket of every single citizen in this country, and he is telling them that they will see an increase in funding for their police, but they have to pay more tax for it. That is exactly what he is doing, and he is making the poorest in our communities pay for it. The Metropolitan police have been cut by £1 billion since 2010, under the Tories and the Liberal Democrats. Is he suggesting that we put a precept on council tax to backfill that hole? Crime is increasing and police numbers are down to the lowest they have been in 20 years. What is he going to do about that?

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The hon. Gentleman simply articulates the problem with the Labour party: year after year and decade after decade, the answer is always more and more money with no understanding of where it comes from. There is no such thing as Government money—it is taxpayers’ money. The only way to increase investment in policing, which is what we all want to do, is to either increase borrowing or increase taxation. As he will see, this settlement increases investment from the centre by £130 million. We are enabling locally accountable police and crime commissioners to go to their public and say, “Will you give us an extra £1 a month to invest more in our local policing?” I suspect the answer will be yes.

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Further to my hon. Friend’s point, the Minister will be well aware of the really significant variation in the money that can be raised through the precept, which often means that some of the forces with the greatest need are able to raise the least. What is the Minister planning to do to help to reconcile some of those imbalances, so we can meet demand?

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I welcome the hon. Lady’s contribution. She is extremely thoughtful on police matters and has done great work over the years on the “Protect the protectors” agenda. I hope she welcomes the additional £8.9 million that her force should see next year. She raises a thoughtful point. It is a complex system. There are some forces whose ability to raise precept is low, or whose historic precept levels are low. That often reflects historic political decisions, which I cannot do anything about at the moment. She will notice that this has been structured in terms of an additional £12 rather than percentages, which has been the historical route. There is a reason for that: it advantages slightly those forces that have low precepts.

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The Minister was kind enough to acknowledge the bravery and hard work of police officers right throughout this country, but far from looking at the financial settlement for next year, serving police officers in the Police Service of Northern Ireland have yet to learn of their pay award this year. Given the political difficulties in Northern Ireland, will the Minister at least engage with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and stand up for policemen right across this country?

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I am certainly happy to speak to the Secretary of State about that.