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Rural Crime and Public Services: Response to Opposition Day Debate

Volume 649: debated on Thursday 15 November 2018

On 6 June 2018 this Parliament debated a motion about rural crime and public services. Many of the crimes mentioned during the debate, such as domestic violence and modern slavery, know no boundaries and can be found in urban and rural areas alike. However, the Government recognise that certain crimes, such as hare coursing and livestock offences, can be an additional pressure in rural areas.

We therefore welcome the rural affairs strategy published by the National Police Chiefs’ Council which, developed following a period of consultation with rural stakeholders, sets out operational and organisational policing priorities in respect of tackling crimes that particularly affect rural areas. It is very much intended that the strategy will support safer rural communities and a better rural focus in policing.

Members on all sides of the House emphasised the need to ensure that rural communities are not disadvantaged in the delivery or quality of public services to tackle crime. The Government are committed to providing all police forces in England and Wales with the resources they need to do their crucial work. As the Chancellor of the Exchequer made clear at the Budget, we recognise the pressures on the police from the changing nature of crime. The Home Secretary is reviewing police spending power and further options for reform ahead of the provisional police funding settlement in December.

In 2017, the Minister for Policing and the Fire Service spoke to every police force in England and Wales about the demands they faced, including many frontline officers. Alongside that, the Home Office undertook a robust assessment of demands and pressures on the police which found that, since 2015, there had been substantial changes in the demands on the police, with the make-up of recorded crime shifting towards more complex and resource intensive crimes, such as sexual offences and modern slavery. Increases in the reporting of high harm “hidden” crimes have affected both urban and rural forces across England and Wales.

This work led directly to a comprehensive funding settlement that is increasing total investment in the police by over £460 million in 2018-19. This includes £50 million for counter-terrorism, £130 million for national priorities and £280 million in force funding from increases in council tax precept income. The pressures on territorial policing were spread across England and Wales, so it was right to enable every police force, rural and urban alike, to protect their funding in real terms in 2018-19, including precept income.

Our work on demand is continuing. We are working closely with the policing sector in order to build the evidence base for the next spending review, to ensure the police continue to receive the resources they need. The existing police allocation formula includes population sparsity as a factor. The Government will consider the issue of the police funding formula in the context of the next spending review.