With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to propose to the House a provisional police funding settlement for 2019-20. I do so at a time of real pressure on our police system, with demand rising and becoming increasingly complex and resource intensive. Across the country, police officers and staff are working exceptionally hard in demanding and often risky conditions. They have the respect and thanks of this House, but they need more than that—they need additional support to help them do their job.
Last year, Parliament approved a funding settlement that resulted in £460 million of additional public investment in policing, including £50 million more for counter-terrorism and £280 million more for local forces from the precept. That meant that every force’s funding was protected in real terms this year, and overall public investment in policing this year is more than £1 billion higher than three years ago. As a result of last year’s settlement, most police and crime commissioners set out plans to either protect or enhance frontline policing. I also indicated last year that our intention was to provide a similar settlement in 2019-20, subject to improved efficiency, productivity and financial transparency. I am pleased to confirm that the police have met those conditions, and there is an agreed plan to deliver £120 million in commercial and back office savings by 2020-21. Forces are developing digital plans, including deploying mobile technology more ambitiously to use police time more productively, and every police and crime commissioner has published a financial reserves strategy.
However, the Government recognise that two things have changed since I stood at the Dispatch Box one year ago. First, cost pressures have risen, public sector inflation has increased and the police are facing challenges in meeting new costs such as in forensics and increased employer contributions to safeguard public pensions. More significantly, demand pressures have risen. There has been a major increase in the reporting of high-harm, previously hidden crimes such as child sexual exploitation. The challenge from serious and organised crime networks is growing. Through the serious violence strategy we are bearing down on the worst spike in serious violence and knife crime that we have seen in this country in a decade. Digitally enabled and online crime remains a major challenge for our police, and meanwhile, as we are all aware, the threat from terrorism has escalated and evolved.
The first role of Government is to protect the public, and as crime changes, so must the police. We are determined to ensure that the police have the powers and resources they need to respond to changing demand. Therefore, the Home Secretary and I would like to go further than I indicated last year. As the Home Secretary has signalled over the course of the year, police funding is his No. 1 priority, and he and I have been working closely with our colleagues across Government to agree a comprehensive settlement. Today we are proposing a settlement that could see public investment in policing rise by up to £970 million in 2019-20, depending on the actions of police and crime commissioners.
Let me break that very large number down for the House. First, instead of the flat cash grant that I indicated last year, we want to increase Government grants to police and crime commissioners by £161 million. Every police and crime commissioner will have their Government grant funding protected in real terms, and the package includes £14 million to recognise the specific extra costs and financial challenges of policing London.
On top of that, we will allocate additional grant funding of more than £150 million specifically to help the police manage what, since the 2016 Budget, have been unexpected increases in their contribution to public sector pensions.
We have also listened to requests from police and crime commissioners for more flexibility around levels of police precept. This settlement empowers police and crime commissioners to raise council tax contributions for local policing by £2 a month for a typical household, which is £24 a year. If that flexibility is fully utilised, the result will be just over £500 million of additional local investment in local policing. We do not take that decision lightly, because we know money is tight for many people. The decision to raise local tax will be up to locally elected police and crime commissioners, and they will have to make a case to their electorate and be accountable for delivery of a return on that public investment.
On top of the proposed increase in core grant and a doubling of local precept flexibility, we propose investing more in the fight to protect our constituents against terrorism and serious organised crime. As my right hon. Friend the Chancellor announced at the Budget, funding for counter-terrorism policing will increase by £59 million next year to £816 million, which is £160 million more than we planned at the last spending review. We also intend to match the new serious and organised crime strategy with £90 million of much-needed resources to tackle threats including economic crime, child sexual exploitation, fraud and cyber-crime.
This settlement combines increased central funding with increased local contributions to local policing. It enables the biggest investment in frontline policing since 2010, and the start of the journey to get this country back to living within our means. It will allow PCCs to manage their costs while maintaining their plans to recruit and fill capability gaps, not least when it comes to detectives. It will strengthen our capabilities in the fight against serious and organised crime and terrorism.
Alongside that increased investment in the frontline against crime, we will also maintain our existing level of public investment in building national police capabilities and upgrading police technology for the benefit of local forces. We will invest £175 million in the police transformation fund next year. A major priority for us is supporting the police to make the most of the digital opportunity to improve contact with the public and manage police time more effectively. We are also developing the first national programme to support the wellbeing of stretched frontline officers. We support Police Now, which is attracting fresh talent into neighbourhood policing and supporting the role of detectives.
Alongside the police transformation fund we will invest £495 million in technology programmes that will upgrade critical infrastructure such as police databases and the emergency service communications network. Taking everything together, the settlement means that as a country we will be investing up to £14 billion in our police system next year, if all police and crime commissioners use full precept flexibility. That would represent increased public investment of £2 billion compared with 2015-16.
With increased public investment comes an increased responsibility to improve efficiency and effectiveness, and to show the public what difference their investment is making in terms of greater deterrence for criminals, better outcomes for victims and safer communities. To make the most of the new investment we are announcing today, we will work with the police on ensuring the delivery of the efficiency savings we have identified. We want greater ambition in the use of digital mobile working to improve productivity. We also want to ensure that the major capability gaps that the independent inspectorate identified, on detectives and investigations, are filled, and that there is greater co-ordination of important work to tackle serious and organised crime.
Of course, support for our police is not all about spending taxpayers’ money, and we are also supporting them through new powers. We are working on a cross-party basis to strengthen legislation on offensive weapons, just as we worked on a cross-party basis to strengthen protections for emergency services workers. Let me be clear: our commitment to supporting the police to deliver for the public is for the long term. Come the forthcoming comprehensive spending review, the Government will be prepared to invest appropriately in police capacity, capability and professional confidence, but that must come with greater local accountability of directly elected police and crime commissioners, and a commitment to accelerate the pace of change to ensure that British policing remains the best in the world.
As we have indicated, this settlement is the last before the next spending review, which will set long-term police budgets and address how resources are allocated fairly across police forces—I know that is of great interest to many Members across the House. This Government’s priority is the safety of the public. We understand that our police face increased demands, and we are determined to respond to the threats from terrorism, organised crime and serious violence. We are today announcing a major investment in the capabilities that the police need to respond, and we are rightly challenging them to spend that money well and continue on the path of reform and modernisation. I conclude by expressing my gratitude and that of the Government to police forces around the country for their exceptional attitude, hard work and bravery, and I commend this statement to the House.
I thank the Minister for advance notice of his statement and for his recognition of the demand facing our police forces. Once again, however, we are faced with the Government’s complete refusal to acknowledge their own part in creating that demand.
It is important that we set today’s statement in the context it deserves. The Conservative party has created a crisis in public safety. There is simply no precedent in post-war history for a Government to have undermined the police in the way that this Government have. No Government in post-war history have ever slashed the resources available to the police by as much as 30% and cut officers in every year they have been in office. Never, since records began, has violent crime been as high as it is today. Never has knife crime been as high as it is today. Arrests have halved in a decade. Unsolved crimes stand at over 2 million cases, and 93% of domestic violence offences go unprosecuted. Today’s settlement has to stand in that context.
If we are honest—if we are not to mislead the public, as the Office for National Statistics has asked the Government not to do on police funding—today’s settlement represents a ninth consecutive year of real-terms central Government cuts to the police. In September, the Government announced that changes to the police pension valuation would mean an additional £165 million cost to forces in 2019-20, increasing to £417 million in 2021. Why, then, does today’s settlement cover only £150 million of that cost, and why does it provide no certainty for the following year? That cost was dropped on forces at the last minute. Some police and crime commissioners had already started drafting emergency budgets. It was a completely inappropriate way to handle an event that must take place every four years. The Government need to get real. They cannot keep expecting forces to wait until the last minute, with disaster at the door, for the Government to get their act together. Will the Minister commit today to funding the complete pension bill for 2019-20 and 2020-21?
Funding for counter-terrorism and serious organised crime, although welcome, is not seen by local forces, and the funding to tackle fraud and cyber-crime is significantly below the amount requested by police last year.
The Government are once again confirming today their intention to pass the vast majority of the increase in the police funding settlement on to local ratepayers. That is perverse. It will not meet need and is fundamentally unfair. Despite the fact that every band D household or above will be asked to pay the exact same amount in additional tax, different force areas will be able to raise hugely different amounts. The forces that have already been cut the most will be able to raise the least. Can the Minister confirm that today’s settlement will mean that Surrey can raise 44% of the cash it has lost since 2010, whereas the west midlands will be able to raise just 11% of what it has lost; and that Suffolk can raise 30% while Northumbria can raise only 12%? How can the Minister possibly justify a postcode lottery that means the communities that are already seeing higher crime, to which reserves have been allocated, will receive so much less funding?
Can the Minister further confirm that the National Police Chiefs’ Council has calculated the cost of inflation at £435 million this year, wiping out the grant from central Government and almost wiping out the amount the precept will raise, forcing council tax payers to pay the price for their local service to stand still? The simple truth is that because the Home Secretary cannot make the case within the Government for extra resources for the police, he is passing his own political failure on to local ratepayers. He knows that this perverse way of raising income for the police will not and cannot meet the needs of local communities. Instead of a calculation based on demand, rising crime, population and vulnerability, the only determination this is based on is local house prices. Once again, the Minister is at the Dispatch Box announcing cuts from central Government funding and trying to dress them up as good news. I am afraid no one is falling for it.
I have been a shadow Minister and I know that that sometimes requires one to push the boundaries of reasonableness, but I am afraid the hon. Lady has lost all proportion. She talks about the Government creating demand on the police system. I do not know what she means by that. Perhaps she means the pressure we put on the police to improve their recording of crime. Perhaps she means the pressure the current Prime Minister put on the police to improve their support for the most vulnerable people in our communities, which means that more victims of domestic violence and rape are coming forward to the police. If that is what she means, I can see her point.
The hon. Lady tries to claim that the Government are cutting funding to the police in real terms, but I stated very clearly that in this settlement we have moved from flat-cash Home Office grant to police forces to the first real increase in the grant since 2010. That is the reality.
The hon. Lady talks about pension costs, which have been a very real issue. The Treasury has done exactly what it said it would do. I am very clear that through a combination of the special pension grant, the increase in the Home Office grant, the room for efficiencies and the levels of reserves, every single police and crime commissioner should be able to go to their public and talk about local taxes for their local police service.
Finally, for the Labour party to present itself as the champion of the council tax payer, when it doubled council tax when it was in power, is hypocrisy of the worst order. The hon. Lady talks about the council tax payer being weighed down by this, but in reality the average amount of funding that comes from the precept has moved from 32% to 34% across the police system. The reality is that most of the funding for our police system comes from the taxpayer through central funding.
My challenge to the shadow Minister is this. She and her boss led their colleagues through the No Lobby this time last year, so the Labour party effectively voted against a police settlement that put an additional £460 million into our police. This settlement has the potential to put an additional £970 million into our police system so that we as taxpayers are investing over £2 billion more than we were in 2015-16. This might, therefore, be the moment to put tribal politics and games aside and recognise the fundamental truth that Members on both sides of the House recognise the pressure on the police and want to see increased resources for policing. That is exactly what this settlement delivers.
I very much welcome the Minister’s statement, particularly his recognition of the pressures that the police are under both in demand and in the resources they have to do their job. I pay tribute to the Wandsworth police, who work tirelessly to keep our local community safe.
In my area we have significant extra housing and population arriving, both in the form of the Battersea power station development and because of demand related to the new US and Dutch embassies. Will the Minister set out briefly how we can ensure that additional demands do not squeeze funding for the broader community in Wandsworth?
I thank my right hon. Friend and former boss for that question. As a fellow London MP, I am delighted that the Met could receive an additional £172 million next year if the Mayor raises precept flexibility by the full £24. He has indicated that he will. That comes on to top of an additional £100 million of public investment in the Met this year. The challenge for the commissioner and the Mayor, who is accountable to the people of Wandsworth for how resources are allocated, is to make sure that police resources are not just allocated to existing demand but used to better anticipate future demand, reflecting factors such as she talks about. It is a challenge, but it is one that police leadership should be up to. We are determined to make sure they have the resources they need to do their job. I am sure she would agree that this settlement enables just that.
The Minister has rightly talked about the increasing pressures on policing, as the Home Affairs Committee set out in our report, and we look forward to scrutinising the detail of the figures that he set out. Will he confirm what I think he just said—that once we take account of inflation, the increased pension costs and funding, there is not a real increase in Government funding for police forces? Will he also say what he thinks the impact of the funding will be, given that arrests have halved in the last 10 years, and even in the last three years, we have seen an increase of about one third in the level of recorded crime, but a drop of one quarter in the number of charges and summons? Does he think that arrests, charges and summons will go up as a result of these figures?
I thank the right hon. Lady for that question and for her challenging, but extremely good, report on future policing. This settlement enables additional investment of up to £970 million in our police system, of which £509 million could come from PCCs, if all of them use their flexibility. Within that, as I said in my statement, we have moved from a situation where the Home Office grant is flat cash to one in which every single PCC will see flat real in relation to the first increase in the grant from the Home Office since 2010. She is right to point to a worrying trend in some of the outcomes of policing. The right hon. Lady and the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Louise Haigh), identified that and were right to do so. For me, the critical thing now is to increase the capacity of the police and to fill some key capability gaps. She knows that one of the most important of those is the lack of detectives. Therefore, one thing that I and the Home Secretary will be following very closely next year, as I am sure her Committee will, is an improvement in exactly the outcomes that she identified.
I very much welcome the additional resources for policing—something that I and Government Members have raised with the Prime Minister, as the Minister will be aware. Does he agree, though, that we need to urge the Mayor of London to start using some of his £500 million of reserves to strengthen policing and to keep Barnet police station open?
I speak not just as the Minister for Policing, but as the Minister for London and a London MP. Certainly, a large part of my ongoing conversations with the Mayor will be on the question, “What are you doing with the money?” The taxpayer has put in an additional £100 million this year. As I have said, there is the potential from this settlement for an additional £172 million of public investment in the Met. It is already a force that has over one and a half times the national average in terms of police officers per head, so the voice from Londoners will get increasingly loud in asking, “What are we getting for the money?”
Yet another tragic case of knife crime in my constituency led to a death within the last 48 hours. Ten years ago, there were 31,000 police officers in London, and the Mayor of London is now warning that that is going to drop to below 27,000. Back then, I had six police officers per ward in my constituency, and I am now struggling to get two. The Government were warned about the dangers of cutting the police so severely and now we are paying the consequences. What will this announcement do to address the severe cuts that we have seen over the last eight years?
As a fellow Londoner, I say to the hon. Gentleman that there is absolutely cross-party consensus on the absolute determination that we need to bear down on this horrific spike in serious violence and knife crime. I am sure that the whole House will want to pass on through him their condolences to the family and friends of the victim of that tragedy. Through the serious violence strategy and the serious violence taskforce, on which the Mayor sits, as do other London Labour MPs, there is an absolute determination to combine robust policing with a big investment in prevention and early intervention to do just that. The Met needs more resources, as I said. An additional £100 million of taxpayers’ money is going into that system this year. This settlement enables additional investment of £172 million, if Sadiq Khan increases precept flexibility. The hon. Gentleman talks about police officer numbers. I am sure that he is aware—and will welcome the fact—that the commissioner is actively recruiting an additional 1,000 officers. We all wait to see what the result of this settlement will be in terms of updating those plans.
I very much welcome the statement, and I thank the Minister for providing extra resources to deal with the Salisbury and Amesbury incidents. The fact remains, however, that Wiltshire gets £151 per person from the Government to deal with policing. Nationally, the figure is £171 per person. I am sure that he wants to close that gap. Does he propose that that is done through the £161 million that he has announced today, or does he think that Angus Macpherson, our police and crime commissioner, should be raising money locally through the precept using the powers announced today?
I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. Through him, again, I congratulate and place on record our appreciation of the work of Wiltshire police in response to the Salisbury incident. I hope he will welcome the fact that this year, public funding in Wiltshire policing increased by £4 million and that this settlement enables further investment of up to £9 million, of which £2 million will come from additional grant funding. It is for the local police and crime commissioner to consult colleagues and weigh up his options on using the full precept flexibly. I cannot take that decision for him—he must consult local MPs and people who understand the public pulse in Wiltshire—but if he does so, he has the ability to raise an additional £7 million for local policing in Wiltshire.
Last year, West Midlands police took 40,000 extra 999 calls and recorded 27,000 more crimes and 3,000 more violent crimes, yet it has 2,000 fewer officers. Law and order in our city is now resting on the heroism of officers such as Matt Crowley, who led a major operation against the dealers of violence this week. The Minister knows that we needed £25.5 million extra for 500 extra officers to keep our city safe. At best, can he confirm that we have only half that money and that once more, West Midlands police will be sent forward with one arm tied behind its back?
I do not accept that last statement, because that is a grotesque exaggeration of the situation. The West Midlands police force is an extremely important police force in the system, with a proud history of innovation. Funding—public investment—in that system increased by £10 million this year. This settlement enables the police and crime commissioner to increase public investment by up to £34 million, of which £16 million will come from central Government grants. The west midlands has, I think, an above average number of police officers per head of population, compared with the national average, and broadly the national average in terms of crime recorded by police officers, but it is a stretched police force. I absolutely understand that and I see this settlement as another important milestone on the journey towards the next comprehensive spending review, which is the most important event in shaping police funding for the next few years.
As someone who has campaigned vociferously on behalf of Bedfordshire police, I say thank you for enabling Bedfordshire to raise an extra £8 million next year, which is very welcome indeed. Does the Policing Minister share my outrage at the escalation in the theft of tools from vans? We have just had Small Business Saturday. Someone who steals tools from a work person’s van takes their livelihood. I am concerned that the police might not take that crime as seriously as I think they should. Does he share my concern about that particular issue?
I do share that concern, because I absolutely understand the economic impact on that small business trade, and I would expect the police to take that crime seriously. This is an opportunity for me to place on record again my admiration for and thanks to my hon. Friend for his tenacity in advocating for increased funding for Bedfordshire police. I hope that he is pleased about the exceptional grant that I announced a few months ago and that he will welcome a settlement that has the potential to increase funding into Bedfordshire police by up to £8 million next year.
On Merseyside, we have seen a cut of more than 1,000 police officers since 2010, which is a 24% decrease. Despite the very best efforts of our police, they simply cannot provide the same level of service. Levels of certain crimes are going up and our police are under incredible pressure, as we have seen in the increase in the number of 999 calls.
I listened closely to the Minister. Will he categorically confirm that, of the £161 million increase in grants to the police, almost all—£152 million—will be eaten up by higher pensions? That will mean that inflation and pay increase costs will have to be met by council tax payers—it is about £24 a year, which we are not guaranteed to raise. That means that Merseyside police will just stand still. How on earth is that an acceptable state of affairs?
The settlement allows police and crime commissioners to absorb the increase in costs that they face while hopefully enabling them to continue their plans for recruitment and for filling in capability gaps. Like many other police forces, Merseyside police is stretched and does incredibly important and difficult work. Although the hon. Lady voted against it, I hope she welcomes the additional public investment of £5 million in Merseyside police, and that she will support a funding settlement that could increase funding into Merseyside police by up to £18 million this year, of which £8.6 million will come from central Government grant.
Policemen and women in Northamptonshire do a wonderful job in very challenging circumstances and deserve the thanks of hon. Members and of the public. Will the Policing Minister confirm that the funding settlement could mean up to an extra £9 million into Northamptonshire police, and does he share my hope that the police and crime commissioner will use the money to continue to increase police numbers?
I place on record my admiration for the work of Northamptonshire police and the police and crime commissioner. They are a good force in relation to efficiency, and benefited from increased funding of £4 million this year, which my hon. Friend voted for. I hope he will support this settlement, which I can confirm has the capacity to increase funding by a further £9 million this year. Of course, it is up to Stephen and the local chief to decide how those resources are best allocated. I am sure my hon. Friend will express a strong view on behalf of the good people of Kettering.
Where in this statement is there money for a public health model to cut youth violence? Where in this statement is there money for a police partnership with the NHS, so that they can work together to support each other and reduce the police work related to people with mental health problems?
The right hon. Gentleman raises two extremely important points. Our whole approach to bearing down on the worst spike in serious violence and knife crime in a decade is entirely based on a public health model, as the Home Secretary has made extremely clear. That is the basis of the serious violence taskforce, which brings together all the agencies, including health and education, to discuss what needs to be done to combine robust policing with effective prevention and intervention work, and support for young people. That strategy is properly funded, not least through the £200 million youth endowment fund. That is long-term money to support that work and to support young people up and down the country.
The right hon. Gentleman’s second point on the demands placed on the police system by the need to support people in crisis or who are suffering from mental health issues is an extremely important one. The recommendations of the review of the Mental Health Act 1983 were extremely valuable not only on what needs to change to reduce the demand on the police system, but on ensuring that people in crisis who are suffering from mental health issues are supported by the right people—the people qualified to help them, which in many cases is not the police. One dividend I want from the additional investment in local mental health services announced in the Budget is a reduction in the demand on policing. I hope he will support me in that.
The murder rate in London is at its highest since 2008. My right hon. Friend the Minister will know that, in Harrow, we face a spike in aggravated burglaries—burglars burst into people’s homes knowing that they are there to intimidate them and beat them up. That clearly needs extra policing resources, but not ordinary policing resources—it needs detectives with experience and capability. What in the settlement will encourage people to remain in the police force and encourage new recruits?
I thank my hon. Friend and parliamentary neighbour. He is entirely right, and I will be sitting down with Pinner residents tomorrow to discuss exactly their concerns about the spike in aggravated burglary. The police response, to their credit, has been good, including enhanced neighbourhood team working and enhanced advice on crime prevention. One of the gangs in the case has been disrupted. There has been a good policing response, but the situation requires additional resources going into the Metropolitan police, in part to support increased investment in frontline officers but, critically, to support increased investment in detectives, who follow up crime and give a better service to victims. I hope he supports the settlement for that reason.
Does the Minister accept that the proposed increase in the precept in the Merseyside police force area will mean that people in all council tax bands will experience a 13% increase? Jane Kennedy, the police and crime commissioner, says that that will allow only for a stand-still budget on Merseyside. At the same time, we have seen a worrying increase in knife and gun crime, and the needless and tragic loss of so many young lives, yet the Minister has been unprepared to meet the police and crime commissioner and local MPs to discuss it. Will he undertake to meet the commissioner, the chief constable and local MPs to discuss how we can tackle that appalling problem?
With genuine respect to the right hon. Gentleman, I have met Jane on a number of occasions, and once specifically with the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend the Member for Louth and Horncastle (Victoria Atkins), who has responsibility for crime and safeguarding, to discuss serious violence.
We have asked four times and had no answer.
I am not aware of that. I see Jane quite regularly, as I do the chief. Given the seriousness of the matter, I am more than happy to sit down with Merseyside MPs—I give that undertaking, and was unaware of those unanswered requests. We have an open and regular dialogue with the police leadership.
The settlement helps police and crime commissioners to manage cost pressures—the pension issue was a serious concern—in a way that will allow Jane to go to the people of Merseyside and say clearly that any increase in the local precept will go into local policing. That is one objective of the settlement.
Despite the exceptional efforts of the Humberside force, there is growing concern among my constituents that too many serious crimes such as burglary and attacks on retail staff go without investigation. Will the Minister assure my constituents that the additional resources going to the force will allow for more investigations into those crimes?
Through my hon. Friend, I pass on my congratulations to the Humberside force for some very impressive performance improvements within existing resources, which has been noticed by the independent inspectorate.
I hope my hon. Friend welcomes the settlement, which builds on last year’s, which resulted in an additional £4 million-worth of investment in Humberside policing this year. This year’s settlement enables an increase of up to £11 million of further investment. It is obviously up to the local police and crime commissioner, operating and working with local MPs and colleagues, to decide how those resources are allocated, but I am sure my hon. Friend will be a powerful advocate for exactly what he describes.
Under this Government, since 2010, we have seen the lowest number of police officers in Humberside since the 1970s. It is welcome that under the current chief constable and the police and crime commissioner, Keith Hunter, recruitment is starting to take off again, but what I think worries all Humberside Members is what we were told by the chief constable. He said that if the funds were not found for the additional payments into the police pension scheme, up to 120 officers could lose their jobs and all police community support officers could go. I know that the Minister has just talked about the money that is available for this financial year, but—my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Louise Haigh) made this point—what about 2019-20 and 2020-21?
I thank the hon. Lady for welcoming the increased recruitment of police officers in Humberside, which, I should add, was made possible by a police settlement that she voted against. This settlement enables the police and crime commissioner and the new chief constable to continue that process, not least as the increased costs and the pension costs are absorbed.
The hon. Lady made an important point about what will happen beyond 2019-20. We have made it very clear that the conversation about ongoing management of the need for increased employer contributions to public pensions is wrapped up in the conversations about the comprehensive spending review that is expected next year, which are now live.
Tomorrow afternoon I will host a meeting in the village of Lavenham, together with the police and crime commissioner, Tim Passmore, and the chief constable. It is likely to be attended by about 100 farmers, and will deal specifically with the issue of rural crime following a wave of significant incidents on the Suffolk-Essex borders in recent months. While I welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement, what message will he give me to take to that meeting about the resources to which we may look forward in Suffolk as a result of his statement?
Like many colleagues, my hon. Friend has been a tireless advocate of increased resources for policing, and specifically for Suffolk policing. This settlement builds on the settlement for 2018-19, which provided an additional £3 million for Suffolk: it will allow a further investment of up to £9 million. What my hon. Friend can communicate to that meeting is the Government’s determination to ensure that Suffolk and other police forces have the resources that they need to meet the increasing demands caused by the change in and variety of crime in his area. I do, of course, understand the significance of rural crime, and the determination of farmers to ensure that the police and crime commissioner is attributing the right level of importance to it.
Over the last few years, the West Midlands police force has lost £175 million and 2,000 officers as a result of Government cuts. Violent crime and murders are up, and in the past 10 years the number of arrests has fallen by 50%. I am being lobbied by the public because of their frustration about the lack of action when they report crimes, and I am being lobbied by the police because, as good public servants, they are deeply demoralised by their inability to meet the legitimate demands placed on them by the public.
The Minister said that Opposition Members who raised this issue were doing so for tribal reasons. Will he withdraw that comment, and recognise that Opposition Members are exercising their democratic duty in reporting the legitimate fears of the people whom they represent? Will he also tell me whether, in one year’s time, any of the negative statistics that we have seen in the West Midlands will be reversed as a result of this settlement?
I fully recognise the pressures on West Midlands police. Both the hon. Gentleman’s concern and the concern expressed to him by his constituents are clearly genuine. My straight answer to him, however, is that, given that concern, he should support a police funding settlement that has the capacity to increase funding for West Midlands police by up to £34 million. In doing so, he also might correct a wrong, namely, his action in voting against a settlement that increased funding for that force by £10 million in the current year.
I do not think that members of the public would appreciate any reduction in resources for the police force because of an actuarial calculation. I thank my right hon. Friend, and the Prime Minister, for responding so well to representations from me, from London Tory MPs, and from Shaun Bailey. Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is now important for the Mayor of London to put the whole £172 million of extra funding into the hands of the Metropolitan Police Commissioner as soon as possible, so that she can plan effectively for recruitment, tackling knife crime, and delivering to keep Londoners safe?
I thank my hon. Friend, and other London colleagues, for their persistence in lobbying to ensure that the Metropolitan police have the resources that they need, and that the additional cost pressures, which have been a genuine problem, are cushioned by this settlement. I thank him for his support for it.
If the Mayor uses his maximum flexibility, which he has indicated that he will, there will be an additional £172 million of public investment in the Met, on top of the extra £100 million this year. That is a serious amount of money. My hon. Friend and I, together with other colleagues, will be holding the Mayor and the Commissioner to account for the way in which that money is spent, and, in particular, for ensuring that we see continued progress in driving down the serious violence that is so deeply unsettling for Londoners.
Last week I saw at first hand just how stretched our local police are when I joined officers patrolling Bradford. Areas such as mine, which have seen a surge in violent and sexual crimes, have also seen some of the biggest cuts. When will central Government stop passing the buck to local ratepayers, and take responsibility for funding our police properly?
I congratulate the hon. Lady on her support for her local police force in West Yorkshire. I am sure that, given her desire to see them supported properly, she will welcome a settlement that has the capacity to increase their funding by £28.5 million this year. I look forward to her support in the Lobby.
The Minister knows from our meetings that I wanted to see a strong settlement for the police. I am delighted that there will be an extra £13 million for Leicestershire police, and I am very pleased about the money to protect police pensions.
Does the Minister agree with me on two points? First, does he agree that this must be a first step towards a strong settlement in next year’s spending review, with a fair funding formula attached to it? Secondly, will he confirm that the new programme to look after officers’ welfare will especially help officers who have been victims of violence in the course of their duty? All of us in the House want to see stiffer sentences for those who attack police officers, and we are all very proud of the Bill introduced by the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) to do just that, but must we not also look after the welfare of those poor officers who have been attacked while protecting all the rest of us?
I could not agree more, and I think my hon. Friend senses the House’s full approval of what he has said. I congratulate him personally on his tenacity in advocating more resources and support for Leicestershire police.
My hon. Friend has also raised a very important point. One of the unacceptable features of the modern landscape and the circumstances that the police have to manage is the increased number of assaults and abuse of members of the police and emergency services. It was entirely right that, on a cross-party basis, led by the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant), the House came together to take that Bill through Parliament to send the strongest possible signal that we find such actions absolutely unacceptable.
Yes, I can confirm that as part of the settlement and part of the investment through the police transformation fund, we are working with the police to build the first national welfare programme to support the wellbeing of officers who are having to work in very challenging circumstances, often feeling very stretched. Their welfare and wellbeing is of huge importance to us, and we are investing public money to support it.
The West Midlands police service has suffered a £175 million cut and the loss of 2,000 police officers. With violent crime up, gun crime up, knife crime up and burglaries up, fear stalks the streets in too many communities in the west midlands. Today’s settlement is a cut in real terms. It passes the buck to hard-pressed council tax payers, and it simply does not go far enough to put back on the beat the 500 officers whom we badly need in Birmingham and the west midlands. I pay tribute to the members of our police service, who have been nothing short of heroic, but as the thin blue line is drawn ever thinner, is it not the case that the Government are failing in the first duty of any Government, which is to ensure the safety and security of their citizens?
No, I deny that completely. Like last year’s settlement, this settlement is entirely designed to make sure we increase the resources available to policing. The hon. Gentleman is tenacious in this regard, but he and other Labour Members consistently fail to make any connection between the need to reduce police budgets and the imperative to get serious about reducing the largest peacetime budget deficit in this country’s history. The cuts were the consequence of Labour action, which he supported, and it was our job to try to clear up that mess. As we make progress on that journey, we are now able as a country to do more in terms of public investment in our public services. The police are a priority for the Home Secretary, as we have made clear, and this settlement could not be clearer about the ambition we have, within the resources we have got, to prioritise public safety and make sure that the police have the support they need—for West Midlands police the potential for an increase of up to £34 million of additional investment, and I hope the hon. Gentleman will support that.
This is a positive announcement for Greater Manchester police, who serve my constituency so well. Can my right hon. Friend confirm that it will allow them to increase frontline officer numbers and that more can be done in the forthcoming spending review so that they can properly respond to the victims of crime?
Yes, I can certainly confirm that this settlement has the potential to increase funding to GMP by up to £35 million, of which almost £15 million comes from central Government grants. Again that is an enormously important police force that is stretched and is facing challenging circumstances, which is why we are determined to come to this House with an ambitious settlement to increase resources for policing and capacity for policing, and I look forward to my hon. Friend’s support.
My constituents in Battersea are seeing an alarming rise in crime, with violent crime having increased by more than 15% in just six months this year. Following over £2 billion of cuts by this Tory Government to our local forces, can the Minister now confirm that the funding settlement today is only a tiny fraction of what has already been cut from our forces since 2010, and this will leave our police forces unable to meet the surge in violent crime?
I do not think my constituents would consider £172 million of increased investment in London policing, if that is what the Mayor enables, to be a small, tiny step; I think most people would recognise that to be a large amount of money. They want the police to have more support and welcome the fact that the Met are recruiting additional officers, yet the hon. Lady joins other Labour MPs in punching the same old tune on the jukebox, which completely ignores the economic reality that the last Labour Government ran out of money and ran up the biggest budget deficit in the history of this country, and it was our responsibility to sort that out.
I thank the Minister and the Home Secretary for listening to the points raised on the Conservative Benches about the need to increase funding for our police and help to tackle crime. I also hope he agrees with me about supporting forces like Staffordshire police. We are led by a fantastic Conservative PCC, who is doing fantastic work to lead that police force. Will my right hon. Friend also confirm that Staffordshire police will receive an additional £13 million due to this funding settlement to help tackle crime in Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire?
I thank my hon. Friend for his representations on behalf of Staffordshire police. He knows how important it is for his constituents that the police are well supported. This is indeed a settlement that has the capacity to increase investment into Staffordshire policing by up to £13 million. The excellent PCC Matthew Ellis has got some choices to make, but he will be supported by an increased grant from central Government. I thank my hon. Friend for his support for this settlement.
The police Minister knows that I have seen for myself the pressures facing South Wales police, particularly in Cardiff, not just from the increasing demand from everything from county lines to spice to missing persons, but from the specific demands on it as a capital city hosting major events and as a seat of Government. The Minister met me, the chief constable and the PCC, and we made a very reasonable request to him; I wonder if he has had a chance to consider it further and has anything hopeful to say to us. On the police pensions gap, I appreciate what he said about next year, but beyond that the gap is projected to be £417 million a year, £10 million of which would fall as a burden on South Wales police. Where is that money going to come from in the future?
The hon. Gentleman made a powerful representation on behalf of Cardiff, which I am genuinely and seriously looking at. The more specific answer to that and his broader question around pension costs is rooted in the strategy for the CSR, which is active work under way in anticipation of a spending review next year. He talks about a pensions gap; there is not a pensions gap in 2019-20 as a result of this settlement, and I am determined that through the CSR, with the full support of the Home Secretary, we will get a robust settlement for the police that allows them to increase their capacity and improve their response to changing demand.
During the last hour or so Members have quite rightly been standing up for their own areas, but nobody can say what I am going to say. As the Minister knows from his frequent meetings with Lincolnshire MPs, Lincolnshire is the lowest funded police authority per head in the country—just £88 compared with £99 for Norfolk, a comparable authority. The Minister knows that from our meetings, and he knows that Marc Jones, our excellent commissioner, is now warning that we might lose all our PCSOs and see the complete end of community policing in Lincolnshire. He knows that Bill Skelly, our excellent chief constable, has warned that he might lose up to 60 police officers. He knows, too, that after years of belt-tightening going back over the 35 years that I have been in this House we cannot save £16 million over the next three years. So I beg the police Minister to raise his eyes from his excellent brief and convince us in Lincolnshire that we are going to get a fair funding formula. This is about justice. This is a county that has loyally supported the Conservatives in all my lifetime; where is the justice?
My hon. Friend is, along with other Lincolnshire MPs—I am sitting on the Front Bench next to one now, my ministerial colleague, my hon. Friend the Member for Louth and Horncastle (Victoria Atkins)—assiduous, as are Marc and Bill, in making this point on behalf of Lincolnshire. I hope that my hon. Friend will welcome and support a funding settlement that has the potential of seeing an additional £9 million of funding going into Lincolnshire Police in 2019-20 on top of the £3 million that the settlement for 2018-19 enabled, and on top of consideration of exceptional grant funding as well. But I absolutely accept my hon. Friend’s main point that there is a serious set of decisions to be taken about how funding is allocated across police forces; there is a very serious issue around the fairness of that allocation, and I have indicated very clearly that this settlement is the final stepping stone on the journey towards that work in the CSR, which is the appropriate strategic framework in which to settle police funding for the next five years. He and others have a powerful case to make on behalf of Lincolnshire, a force that does excellent work under extremely difficult circumstances and is extremely well led, not least by Marc Jones.
The Minister and his London cronies really have got some brass neck, in one breath asking what the Mayor of London has done to tackle crime, and in the next breath trying to take credit for the 1,000 police officers being put on London’s streets thanks to action by London’s Mayor. Is it not the case that, even after this funding settlement announced today and the huge increases in charges for council tax payers that will follow, the funding announcement made by the Minister will barely dent the loss of 3,000 police officers, more than 3,000 PCSOs and 5,000 police staff across London, and that is the tragedy that is fuelling rising crime on the streets of my constituency?
Well, to be accused by the hon. Gentleman of brass neck is something. I hope that he welcomes the fact that the commissioner is now in a position to recruit an additional 1,000 officers as a result of the actions taken in the police settlement last year—
And by the Mayor.
And the actions by the Mayor of London. We now have an opportunity to increase funding to the Metropolitan police by up to £172 million, which will seem—and is—a large amount of money to the hon. Gentleman’s constituents, as it does to mine. I sincerely hope that, rather than grandstanding, he will support the Government on this.
The Minister repeatedly claims to recognise that the first duty of his Government is to protect UK citizens, including my constituents, but he is moving funding for the police on to town council tax payers when wages are still flatlining and in-work poverty is at an all-time high. Northumbria has lost a third of its officers while demand is rising as a result of crimes ranging from burglary to historical sexual abuse to terrorism, as we have seen this week. Will he tell me whether this settlement will get us back our lost bobbies and give Northumbria police the funding they need so that hard-pressed police officers can do the jobs they love to do?
The hon. Lady tries to make a point about loading police funding on to council tax payers, when precept funding for Northumbria police represents 19% of total funding. The issue for Northumbria police is a low tax base and an historic decision not to raise council tax. This means that the precept level is low. Vera Baird now has an option to increase council tax by up to £2 a month, and the hon. Lady will have her own view on whether that is acceptable to her constituents. To her point, this is a settlement that builds on a settlement that put £5 million more into Northumbria policing this year, and has the potential to put in a further £18 million next year, to deliver exactly the things she is talking about, so I would be very surprised if she did not support the Government in the voting Lobby.
I have heard what the Minister has had to say about London, but the reality is that since 2010 the Met has faced cuts of £1 billion from central Government. The Government are to blame for the funding crisis in policing. Raising the council tax precept will mean that hard-working families will have to foot the bill and that police budgets will still be significantly underfunded compared with 2010. When will the Government stop abdicating responsibility and undo the damage caused by years of austerity?
My question is: when will Labour MPs grasp economic reality and understand the reason why budgets had to be cut in the first place? It is also recognised by almost everyone that there was enormous scope to improve the efficiency of the Metropolitan police, and I congratulate the police leadership on the work they have done to do exactly that. The reality is that this settlement has the ability to put another £172 million into Metropolitan police funding, on top of £100 million in 2018-19. For all those reasons, I would expect the hon. Lady to support this.
The Minister has repeatedly referred to a “spike” in serious violence. May I urge him to stop using that word? It is not a spike unless and until we actually get these numbers down. The truth is that it is a rising surge. In particular, the horrific assaults on emergency workers that are preventing them from saving people’s lives really have to be tackled. If the police on my patch in South Wales are to be able to do that, they will need additional resources. We need to see the law implemented fully. My biggest fear is that, if South Wales police has a £10 million shortfall in its pension fund, it will be areas such as the Rhondda and the small towns and villages in my patch that will lose out on any kind of policing whatsoever. We really need additional resources in South Wales police.
I actually understand the hon. Gentleman’s point. I use the word “spike” because I am determined, as are my colleagues, that it is a spike and not a shift. We have been here before, in London 10 years ago, when there was a spike and we succeeded in bearing down on it—
We did that.
The Labour party is claiming some credit for that, but I do not think that the Mayor at the time was Labour. I seem to remember that he was called Boris. Leaving that aside, the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) makes a serious point about the need for additional resourcing for policing. We on the Government Benches absolutely accept that argument, because we absolutely accept the pressures on the police. I happen to think that we are as one with Labour Front Benchers on this, because we all recognise the pressure on the police. We all recognise that the police need additional resources. We are pragmatic, and we know that the public finances remain constrained, but this is an ambitious settlement that—if the police and crime commissioner uses the full power—will see up to £19 million more going into South Wales police on top of the £8 million increase that went in this year. I sincerely hope that I can count on the hon. Gentleman’s support when this measure comes to a vote.
The Minister repeatedly mentioned the need to tackle debt. He will know that the debt-to-GDP ratio, which is the only measure that counts, remains stagnant under this Government and that the cuts to public services simply funded cuts to things like corporation tax, which made little or no difference to a slow-growing economy that has been hampered by this Government’s failed Brexit agenda. Can the Minister look me in the eye and tell me that the massive increase in knife crime and the 130 murders in London this year have nothing to do with the £850 million cuts that the Met police has already had to implement since 2010? Can he also explain how the £33 million of Government core funding that he has announced today for the Met will in any way fill that gap?
The hon. Lady and I share an absolute determination to bear down on this terrible violence in London, and I salute the work that she has been doing for some time on that issue. Where she is wrong is on the economics. She talks about tax cuts, but she is talking to a party that has cut income tax for 32 million people and that has reduced the amount of tax paid by a basic-rate payer by £1,205 since it has been in power. She is talking to a party that, despite what it had to do to get public finances under control, has managed to keep council tax as low as possible. That is in stark contrast to her party, which doubled council tax when it was in power.
I welcome the Minister’s commitment to the extra moneys to address terrorism and organised crime. Heading from Northern Ireland, and from my constituency, I believe that security measures are as essential as the NHS. Funding has to be set aside for policing and communities, but funding for additional staffing must also be met. Will the Minister meet the cost of those duties and demands, and not rely on further tax hikes at council level, which would fall on the shoulders and the backs of the middle class, who are already squeezed?
The hon. Gentleman will know that this is a settlement for England and Wales. To his point, it is designed to help police and crime commissioners to manage the very real cost pressures that they face while giving them the space to continue their plans to recruit additional officers and fill key capability gaps. Our priority is to help the police to increase their capacity and to do an even better job in responding to increases in demand. That is the full intention of this settlement.
And the prize for patience and perseverance goes to Kerry McCarthy.
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. There is one advantage to being called last, in that I have now heard the Minister respond over and over again to my many colleagues who have raised the increase in violent crime, the impact of the cuts and the loss of frontline police officers in their constituencies. He has not answered anyone who has questioned him on whether the extra money he has announced today will do any more than just fill the pensions funding gap. We have lost 700 frontline police officers in the Avon and Somerset force. Will today’s announcement mean that we can replace them?
I am sorry that the hon. Lady felt that she did not hear an answer to that question. The reality is that the additional pension costs for 2019-20 are £330 million, and this settlement is designed so that, if all police and crime commissioners use their precept flexibility, there will be an additional investment of £970 million in our police system. Within that, there is plenty of scope to go beyond standing still. Our intention is to support excellent forces such as Avon and Somerset to increase their capacity to deliver a better service to the hon. Lady’s constituents. This year, she voted against a settlement that put an additional £8 million into Avon and Somerset police, but I hope she will not vote against a settlement that has the potential to increase funding by up to £21 million for that police force in 2019-20.