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Police Funding

Volume 650: debated on Monday 3 December 2018

The Government understand that police demand has changed and that there is increased pressure from changing crime. Taxpayers are investing an additional £460 million this year in the police system, including income from council tax precepts. We are reviewing police spending power ahead of the provisional funding settlement to be announced later in December.

I am surprised that the Minister has grouped these questions together, as my question is about Bedfordshire. I am sure he will point to the additional funding provided for Operation Boson in this financial year, but does not the fact that the Home Office had to make that award demonstrate the scale of the problem of funding an urban area as a rural force? I have worked on a cross-party basis for the last eight years to try to get the funding formula fixed. Does he agree that the test of any future police settlement is whether it increases funding for Bedfordshire?

I am not entirely sure about that, and I think other MPs would also disagree. There is a clear Bedfordshire issue, which has been reflected in representations from MPs on both sides of the House. In recognition of some of the exceptional pressures it faces, not least through gang activity, Bedfordshire police has, as the hon. Gentleman notes, received an exceptional grant of £4.6 million. The funding settlement for next year will come shortly, and following that will be the comprehensive spending review.

I spent a night shift with Oldham police officers Josh and Ryan the other week, and our first call was to a threatened suicide. With Greater Manchester police’s budget cut by £215 million since 2010, and with 2,000 fewer officers, how sustainable is it for the police to be the default service in such cases because mental health and social services do not have the resources?

I hope the hon. Lady will welcome the £10.7 million increased investment in Greater Manchester policing this year. I hope she also welcomes the increased funding for mental health services in the Budget. I am absolutely determined, and I hope she shares that determination, that part of the dividend from that increased investment is reduced demand on the police.

In the past four years, recorded crime in Avon and Somerset has risen by 40%, with violent crime rising by over 75%. By contrast, the number of charges brought has fallen by 26%. When is the Minister going to listen to police and crime commissioners and chief constables and give the forces the funding they need so they can actually tackle crime in our constituencies?

I was in Bristol last week talking to the police and crime commissioner and the chief constable, as well as visiting the Home Secretary’s former manor. I hope the hon. Lady will welcome, although she voted against it, the additional £8 million that has gone into Avon and Somerset policing, and I am sure she will look forward to the police funding settlement shortly.

West Midlands police have had the second highest funding cut in the country. Our chief constable has said:

“I think criminals are well aware now how stretched we are.”

And we have the rising levels of violent crime to prove it. Will the Minister now confirm that he will give our police the funding they need from our national Budget and spending settlement and not push the pressure downstream to local budgets, which will hit the poorest hardest and will not provide all the money that is needed?

With respect to the hon. Lady, I am not going to take any lessons on progressive taxation from the party that doubled council tax when it was in power. I am sure that, even though she voted against it, she will welcome the almost £10 million of additional investment in west midlands policing this year and will look forward to the funding settlement, which is imminent.

Northumbria’s police force has had its funding cut by more than a quarter since 2010 and has lost more than 100 officers in the past year alone. This is the largest cut of any force in England, yet crime and antisocial behaviour are on the rise. Why will the Minister not accept any responsibility for this situation, which is making it harder for police officers to do their jobs and keep our communities safe?

I am not sure the hon. Lady was listening; the Government absolutely accept that there is increased pressure on the police, as demand rises and crime becomes increasingly complex. That is why we took the steps in the police funding settlement for 2018-19 that resulted in an increased investment of £5.2 million in Northumbria police, with more to come, I hope, in the police funding settlement.

First, let me thank the Minister for the extra £4.6 million that he gave us last week. But does he agree that Bedfordshire has been underfunded since damping was introduced in 2004 and that part of what we need to do is refocus the police’s priorities on the bread and butter crime issues, which perhaps involves getting others to take more responsibility for missing children and mental health issues?

I thank my hon. Friend for his assiduous campaigning on behalf of Bedfordshire police, and I am delighted that we were in a position to make that exceptional grant. He will know that there is a lot more to do in the funding settlement and the comprehensive spending review to come. I also entirely agree with him that we need to do more, working with our NHS partners, to help reduce the demand on the police.

Funding has rightly been directed towards cyber-crime, counter-terrorism and other new threats, but I know the Minister recognises the importance of neighbourhood policing. What plans does he have to support the police in managing crimes such as theft, antisocial behaviour and drug use, which can make residents feel unsafe in their communities?

One of the Home Secretary’s and my priorities is increasing activity in relation to crime prevention, and good neighbourhood policing is at the core of that. More investment is going into the police system. Just as importantly, the police are developing guidelines on best practice on good neighbourhood policing, which is being rolled out across the country.

I represent the furthest south-west constituency in the country, and what I hear from people is that they just do not feel we are getting a fair share of the money available. So what can the Minister do to make sure that funds are available and that they are evenly distributed across the country so that my constituents have the safety and security they need?

The Government recognise that there is additional pressure on the police and we recognise the need to increase their capacity. Additional money has been put into Cornwall police this year, which I hope my hon. Friend welcomes. I am sure he will look forward, like the rest of the House, to the details of the police funding settlement, which is imminent.

Like Bedfordshire, Oldham and other force areas, Sussex has faced severe pressures in funding its police numbers, so our police and crime commissioner bravely urged a high increase in the police precept in order to recruit 200 additional officers each year for the next four years. That amount has been wiped out by the reassessment of the pension requirement over the next few years, such that we will not be able to recruit any more without digging into reduced funds. How are we going to get extra police officers?

I join my hon. Friend in saluting the leadership of Katy Bourne, who, like most PCCs, is either protecting or increasing the number of police officers as a result of the settlement we took through Parliament this year. We have debated the issue of the increase in pension costs. The Treasury has made it clear that it is going to contribute to part of the cost. The rest of the solution will be evident in the police funding settlement.

I, too, pay tribute to the Sussex PCC, Katy Bourne, who has successfully recently bid for almost £1 million of youth intervention funding. That is really important for my Crawley constituency, which has seen an increase in drug and knife-related crime. May I have an assurance that this partnership working with the Home Office will continue to tackle this issue?

I assure my hon. Friend that partnership working is absolutely at the heart of this Government’s approach to tackling serious violent crime and the running of drugs outside our major cities. Everything we have learnt from the examples elsewhere shows that effective multi-agency partnership works, and the Government are actively supporting that through funds such as the early intervention fund.

The Minister deliberately and consistently confuses money raised locally by the precept with money from central Government, but he will be aware that the Select Committee on Home Affairs, the National Audit Office and the Public Accounts Committee have all sounded the alarm about inadequate central Government funding. Most recently, the Mayor of London has said that London police numbers will plummet without increased funding. When will the Minister stop blurring the facts and make sure our police get the money they need?

I am not blurring any facts. What I am doing is challenging a deception carried out by the Labour party on the British public: that somehow someone else will always pay. The Government have no money: every pound that we spend is raised in tax or borrowed, meaning that the taxpayer pays interest on it. That is the fact. If we want more investment in policing—and we do—we have to pay.

Further to the Minister’s answer on police pensions, does he accept the estimate by Chief Constable Thornton that the changes will cost the police service more than £420 million, or the equivalent of 10,000 police officers? Will he explain why that will not be met in full?

We will set out the details in the funding settlement, later. The Treasury has made quite clear its intention to fund most of those costs. The rest will be clear in the police funding settlement.