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Police Officer Numbers

Volume 686: debated on Monday 14 December 2020

The Government have a clear commitment to recruit 20,000 police officers by March 2023. Thanks to the strong commitment we have had from all forces across England and Wales, we have made a fantastic start, with almost 6,000 additional officers recruited by the end of September. As the party of law and order, we are well on track to increasing police officer numbers across all forces.

I welcome the increase in police numbers across the country; it is great news, honouring and delivering on our manifesto commitment. I have been informed that Avon and Somerset seems to be lagging behind a bit on the uplift of police numbers. Will my right hon. Friend assure me that that is not the case?

I can assure my hon. Friend that Avon and Somerset has all the resources needed to recruit the number of police officers that it needs. We have asked it to recruit 137; it has actually recruited 130, and of course we have funded it with up to £326 million. On top of that, I would urge the police force and my hon. Friend to keep on banging the drum—we are the party of law and order—and to get out there and recruit the remaining police officers that it needs.

I am grateful that the Government have provided Kent with an additional 184 police officers, but will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating Kent’s excellent police and crime commissioner, Matthew Scott, who, in his four years in office, has recruited 450 officers over and above the Government-funded number? That means we now have 3,847 officers in Kent, which is the highest number on record.

I absolutely commend the police and crime commissioner for Kent, Matthew Scott, but I also thank and pay tribute to the chief constable. This is a joint effort. Having been out in Kent a few weeks ago on a police raid, I have seen at first hand the new recruits and the absolute determination that the force has not just in recruitment but in dealing with some of the most appalling crimes that we see.

I am delighted that London will also receive an uplift in the number of police officers on our streets. With the continued incidence of catalytic converter theft, vehicle-related crime, antisocial behaviour and burglaries in Carshalton and Wallington, can my right hon. Friend assure me that the London Borough of Sutton will receive its fair share of these new officers?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to bang the drum for the London Borough of Sutton. Of course, he will know that the Metropolitan police has been allocated an additional 1,369 new officers. Its funding has increased as well, by £193 million. I must emphasise that that is money for the frontline—for police officers to deal with the crimes that my hon. Friend highlights, along with a lot of the serious violent crime we see across London.

The Government’s police officer uplift is of course welcome, but it must surely be only the starting point for what is needed to repair the damage to policing by Conservative Governments. New figures revealed in The Sun on Sunday show that there is now only one police community support officer for every 6,475 people in England and Wales, compared with one PCSO per 3,292 people in 2010. While the population has grown and violent crime has risen by 150%, the Government have cut nearly half of our neighbourhood PCSOs, and on top of that we have lost over 12,000 police staff roles. The Prime Minister said last year that

“the most important thing politicians can do is back the police,”

yet he has zero plans to replace the PCSOs or police staff that have been ripped away. When will this Government live up to their promise so that our police officers can get a grip on crime?

It is important for this House and the British public to know that this Government have put record levels of funding into the police, and that this Government, this Prime Minister and this Home Secretary absolutely, unequivocally back the police. The hon. Lady asks about the recruitment of PCSOs. Obviously, that links to the powers and the duties that they have, but she will also know that that is a decision for chief constables and police and crime commissioners, so across London, for example, where there might be an issue with PCSOs, it is for her, as a London MP, to raise this with the Labour Mayor of London. These are operational decisions, but I maintain that this Government back the police. Our funding settlement illustrates that day in, day out, as does the recruitment programme, with almost 6,000 new police officers recruited to the frontline.

Rosie Cooper is mobile at the moment—hopefully we will come back to her question—so we now move on to the next question.