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Frontline Police Officers

Volume 634: debated on Monday 8 January 2018

13. What the change in the number of frontline police officers is estimated to be between 2018 and 2020. (903113)

15. What the change in the number of frontline police officers is estimated to be between 2018 and 2020. (903116)

Before Christmas, the Government proposed a new police funding settlement for 2018-19 which will increase funding by up to £450 million across the police system. It is for police and crime commissioners and chief constables to determine the number of officers required for their force areas.

On new year’s eve in West Norwood, 17-year-old Kyall Parnell became the 39th victim of a fatal knife attack in England and Wales in 2017. To solve the growing tragedy of knife crime, the police need to be able to work creatively in partnership with communities, the NHS, and other public sector agencies, but the loss of 20,000 officers since 2010 means that forces across the country are stretched to breaking point. Will the Minister guarantee that there will be no further drop in police numbers?

The short answer is that that is down to the Mayor and the leader of the Met. The hon. Lady is entirely right to talk about these tragic losses of life in tragic terms; lives have been cut very short. However, she is wrong to focus entirely on the question on police officers, because the last time London saw a spike in deaths from knife crime was in 2008, when there were roughly the same number of police officers as there are now.

In December, I went out with my local Safer Neighbourhood team. Despite the tremendous work they do, two officers per ward is not enough. Added to that, my local police station in Penge recently closed. Met police numbers are set to fall below 30,000. Given the rise in violent crime in London, will the Government now commit to investing in our police and reversing the cuts?

Police numbers in London have been stable for some time, going back to 2008. Any decisions on future projections are to be taken by the Mayor and the head of the Met. If the Mayor does what we are empowering him to do, this settlement will mean an additional £43 million for the Met on top of £200 million of reserves. The force has made great strides in efficiency but, according to Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary, continues to require improvement. Of course, public safety in the capital matters a great deal, which is why the Met police have 1.6 times the number of officers per head than the national average.

Constituents in Leigh are bearing the brunt of the Government’s police cuts, with Greater Manchester police officers cut by 23% since 2010. That is nearly 2,000 fewer officers on the streets of Manchester. The Home Secretary rightly praised the officers involved in the response to last year’s terror attack in the city, yet GMP face further real-terms cuts to their resources. What steps will she now take to ensure that our local police force is adequately resourced to keep the people of Leigh safe?

I am sure that the hon. Lady will welcome the fact that the number of police officers in Greater Manchester actually rose in 2016, and the fact that the police funding settlement will result in an additional £10 million going into Greater Manchester policing. She may also want to ask the Mayor why reserves for Greater Manchester have gone up by £29 million.

In 2014-15, the provisional grant allocation for the police was just over £8 billion. However, the Home Office announced in December last year that it would be just £7.325 billion for 2018-19, despite the fact that inflation is predicted to be 7% over that period, according to the Office for Budget Responsibility. As this is a substantial real cut in police funding, would the Minister like to suggest where savings could be made on a scale that would protect police numbers?

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will welcome the fact that, if the police and crime commissioner exercises the flexibility that we are offering, Thames Valley police will benefit from an initial £12.7 million in 2017-18. How that works out to a cut, I do not know.

I thought I had better get in quick before the Prime Minister’s inevitable call to me. [Laughter.]

There has been a very worrying increase in crime across the Shipley constituency over recent months, and my constituents and I expect to see more police officers. The first duty of the Government is to protect the public and keep them safe, and I have to say to the Government that they are not putting enough focus on police resources. Will they please give the police the resources that they need to keep our constituents safe? The Government are in danger of being very greatly out of touch with public opinion on this issue.

I am sure that she is keeping a job open for the hon. Gentleman; I feel more certain of it now than ever.

I had better keep my answer short then, Mr Speaker. I understand my hon. Friend’s point. The police funding settlement means that there is more cash going into policing in Yorkshire. How that money is allocated is up to police and crime commissioners and to chief constables; they are directly accountable to the public they serve and to the Members of Parliament who serve those constituents, so these representations need to be made directly. What is not in doubt is that up to £450 million of new investment will be going into British policing next year as a result of the funding settlement.

The Mayor of London has something over half a billion pounds in reserves. Does the Minister agree that some of that should be spent on strengthening police resources in my constituency?

The Met’s budget is set to grow to £2.5 billion. There are reserves of £200 million in the Met. In addition, the Mayor has his own reserves. Funding per head for officer numbers is running at over one and a half times the national average in London. It is time—I speak as a Londoner and a London MP—for the Mayor of London to give a serious answer to the question, “What are you doing?”, because at the moment the answer is just writing letters to the Home Secretary, and that is not good enough.

Although the number of police officers is very important, so are their skills and the nature of the crime they are dealing with. Given that we are now 20 times more likely to be a victim of online crime than offline crime, can the Minister assure us that the police have the skills to deal with crime in the digital age?

I thank my hon. Friend for making an incredibly important point. I know that my constituents are much more vulnerable to crime on their computers at home than they are when walking down Ruislip High Street. We have to respond to the changing nature of crime in this country. The number of police officers matters a great deal, but the capabilities inside the service matter enormously. That is why this Government are investing £1.9 billion in cyber-security.

Happy new year to you, Mr Speaker.

This is really all about getting the best service for the funds we have invested. Avon and Somerset police have seen a 180% rise in sexual offences and a 42% rise in recorded domestic abuse in the past four years. Can the Minister confirm that any new funding, either from Government—that is most welcome—or raised through an increase in the precept, can be directed to these growing areas of crime?

If the PCC uses its new powers, Avon and Somerset should receive £8 million of new investment next year, and that will need to be allocated to local priorities. The numbers that my hon. Friend states about the growth in reporting of crimes such as domestic violence are striking, and I would expect that to be reflected in local priorities.