This Government are committed to increasing the number of police officers by 20,000 over the next three years, and I am delighted to say, as the Minister for Crime and Policing has already this afternoon, that we have made a great start on that thanks to the commitment of all forces across England and Wales. In recent weeks, we have announced that so far we have recruited 5,824 additional officers, and they have all joined the police force as part of our uplift programme as of the end of September.
Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the Government not only are committed to increasing police officers, including in rural areas, but will look at increasing the number of police stations in rural areas, such as reopening Bakewell police station in my constituency of Derbyshire Dales?
I thank my hon. Friend not only for her question, but for her commitment to law and order in her constituency. She is indeed a strong champion of that, including with her representation for getting more police stations opened in her constituency. We have already recruited 72 additional officers for her local area, and her chief constable and police and crime commissioner should be equally as receptive to not only receiving new officers, but the additional resources that would lead to more police stations being opened.
West Lancashire and Chorley police do a cracking job, but a number of concerns have been raised in rural areas about groups of youths, potential drug use and certain amounts of antisocial behaviour, especially in Tarleton, Croston and Rufford. Does my right hon. Friend agree that some of the additional police officers that Lancashire is benefiting from could be used to target these rural areas, where the force is stretched a little thin?
My hon. Friend is right. Of course, community concerns about crime should be addressed at the highest level with police and crime commissioners and the chiefs. She has an outstanding chief constable, who is increasing policing and police patrols across the region. In a rural area, that means more resources and putting more officers on the beat to deal with rural crime and the issue of antisocial behaviour.
Yorkshire has some similar problems to Lancashire. Following a break-in at Robert Wilkinson Primary Academy in my constituency and increased reports of antisocial behaviour in the more rural areas around our city of York, does my right hon. Friend agree that our efforts to increase the number of police officers should be used to improve rural police response times and not just be focused on our city centres?
My hon. Friend is right. As he has heard the Policing Minister and I say this afternoon, we are absolutely committed that the additional resources going to all forces across the country are there to bolster our communities when it comes to keeping the public safe, including in rural communities, and tackling the root causes of the crimes that are taking place in his constituency.