The Home Office is working closely with the Treasury on the future funding of violence reduction units. In February, we announced VRU funding of £35.5 million for the coming year, bringing the total investment to £105.5 million over three financial years.
The Government’s own guidance for violence reduction units requires them to generate long-term solutions to violence reduction. Why, therefore, have the Government announced only piecemeal funding for violence reduction units, one year at a time, which makes it impossible to plan with certainty for long-term interventions? When do they plan to embed the work of violence reduction units within mainstream long-term funding commitments, so that this vital work, including with some of the most vulnerable and traumatised young people, can be guaranteed for as long as it is needed?
We recognise the need to put VRUs on a sustainable funding basis, and the hon. Lady is quite right that much of their work is multi-year, which needs to be reflected in the investment we make. We are working closely with Treasury colleagues and can hope for a multi-year financial settlement, which would allow us to move to that position. Having said that, it is also incumbent on the wider organisations involved in fighting violence, such as the Mayor of London, to embed this kind of work as part of their day-to-day addressing of crime, particularly working closely with young people. I would urge her to lobby City Hall to mainstream the violence reduction unit as part of its activity, rather than relying on Westminster funding, although we will of course support the capital substantially, as we have in the past.
Even when the promised 150 police officers are recruited to the Cleveland force, we will still have 350 fewer police than in 2010, and that in an area where the rate of serious violent crime is among the highest in England. Unlike other areas, Cleveland has not received additional funds to tackle it. The Government are now well known for their bizarre rationale for allocating funding for all manner of things in order to favour areas with Tory MPs, but will the Minister now do the right and mature thing and ensure that Cleveland gets the support that the area desperately needs?
As I said in a previous answer, I am meeting, certainly, a Conservative MP to talk about what more we can do to support Cleveland, and I think it is very unfair of the hon. Gentleman to reflect on the experience of his force in that way. We have put significant extra funding into Cleveland police to allow it to uplift the number of police officers. It is benefiting from wider money that we are spending across the whole country on things such as county lines—from which Cleveland sadly suffers, along with other parts of the country—to deal with that particular drugs problem. That is against an overall spending commitment for UK policing that is the largest we have seen for a decade and has been for two successive years, so I do not think anybody could accuse this Government of skimping on investment in the police; quite the reverse. I hope and believe that, as Cleveland police emerges from a difficult period in its history, with a strong chief constable, the hon. Gentleman will start to feel the benefit on his streets quite soon.