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Police Officer Numbers

Volume 645: debated on Monday 16 July 2018

9. What recent assessment he has made of the effect of changes in the number of police officers on the level of serious crime. (906458)

12. What recent assessment he has made of the effect of changes in the number of police officers on the level of serious crime. (906461)

In April, we published our serious violence strategy, which sets out a range of factors driving increases in violent crime. Our analysis shows that changes in the drugs market are a major factor behind the recent increases in serious violence.

South Yorkshire police have seen their budget reduce by £66 million in real terms since 2010, and they expect more to come. In Sheffield, knife crime has increased by 41% over the past year. Does the Minister agree that reducing police numbers has a direct effect on this staggering upward trend in violent crime, which has led to many tragic deaths and left many families grieving?

I thank the hon. Lady for that question. She will know that the South Yorkshire constabulary is receiving an extra £5 million this year and that the Government have protected police funding since 2015. Indeed, police constabularies across the country will see up to £460 million more in funding with the help of police and crime commissioners. Serious violence has to be tackled as part of a national strategy, which is exactly what we have set out.

Bedfordshire police are under unprecedented pressure: violent crime is up; they face the third largest terrorist threat in the country; and they have had to support the visit of President Trump and deal with an increase in mental health cases. Can the Secretary of State explain how the police can keep the people of Bedford safe when they do not have the resources to attend 999 calls?

I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary would agree with me that the way in which Bedfordshire is kept safe is through the excellent work of its police officers and its Conservative police and crime commissioner, who has managed to increase officer numbers in her constabulary by 6.5% over the past year.

Has the Minister read the evidence produced by the Home Office for the serious violence strategy, which shows that it is highly likely that police cuts have contributed to the rise in violent crime? If she has not, will she publish it?

This rather demonstrates the difference between this Government and the right hon. Gentleman’s party. We are concerned with answering the question that the public ask us: how can we make our country safer? We have taken a cold, hard look at the rise in serious violence, and we have drawn together, from a range of parties, including the police, healthcare providers, schools and so on, the serious violence strategy, and it is through that strategy, with the help of those providers, that we will tackle this issue.

Today, the Daily Mail published the results of an exclusive survey, which showed that 57% of people say that police officers have surrendered control of our neighbourhoods and criminals have no fear of being caught; a quarter of people do not feel safe going out at night; and more than half of respondents who reported a crime did not have a police officer attend. Does the Minister accept any responsibility for those figures, or does the Home Office still labour under the dangerous delusion that its cuts have not affected community safety?

I gently remind the hon. Lady that the Government have provided £460 million in additional funding for the police this year, which I understand she voted against. Again, we have to look at this as a strategy. The problem cannot be solved by police officers alone, vital though they are. Early intervention and tackling young people before they get dragged into criminality are key, and I hope that the Labour party will support the Offensive Weapons Bill, which gives the police the powers they need.