This year, the Government took through a police funding settlement that resulted in an additional £460 million of public investment in policing. Most police and crime commissioners are either maintaining or increasing the number of police officers.
One of the casualties resulting from the cut of 21,000 police officers since 2010 has been the safer neighbourhood team in Mitcham town centre. The consequence has been an increase in drug dealing, street drinking, fighting, antisocial behaviour and men urinating in the street, which has meant that women do not want to take their children into the town centre. When will the Home Office accept the correlation between visible policing and crime, so that we can afford to have enough police to put more bobbies back on the beat in Mitcham and every town centre?
This morning, I learned that a café in my constituency had been broken into for the third time this year. This is not an isolated incident: burglary in Nottinghamshire is up this year, as it was up last year. How much more evidence do we need to get more police on the streets?
Police numbers depend, of course, on the entry routes. Does the Minister agree that it is right that we not only encourage more graduates to become police officers but preserve the entry route for non-graduates? Does he further agree that it is important that that is a ministerial decision, not one for the College of Policing?
I thank my hon. Friend for raising an extremely important point. At a time when we are increasing investment in policing and the police are actively recruiting additional officers, who comes into the police force is critical. The police apprenticeship route, to which my hon. Friend refers, is a hugely important introduction and a hugely attractive opportunity for young people to learn and earn in a valuable and exciting job, without the burden of student fees on their neck.