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Nick Herbert: I am sure that the Minister has taken note of that. The prevalence of property crime is one of the significant omissions from the British crime survey; I hope that the views of the Federation of Small Businesses will be taken into account.

There must be a measure of crime on which the public, the police and the House can agree and in which they can have confidence. Only then will we be able to judge how successful increasing resources for the police has been and to hold the police to account for their performance. We believe that, in place of the Government's increasingly central direction of the police, there should be the local accountability referred to earlier, and that the operational independence of the police, which is so important, should be preserved.
 
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The pattern of the announcements on police grants in successive years is this: additional resources, the burden of which falls increasingly on the local taxpayer, combined with an ever-tighter central grip on the police. There is an alternative agenda, which constitutes being serious about police reform and work force modernisation and focusing on that as a priority, rather than concentrating on uncosted amalgamations that raise serious issues of accountability and on which local people have not been properly consulted.

That agenda of police force modernisation should be combined with the enhancement of local accountability that I mentioned. That will deliver what the public want: not only the security that they seek, to which Members on both sides of the House subscribe, to deal with very serious crime and the threat of terrorism, but a tackling of the volume crime that touches people's lives daily. People want a police presence on their street; they want to see that the police are not only detecting crime and bringing offenders to justice, but preventing crime from happening in the first place.

Sir Robert Peel's ninth principle of policing stated that the test of its effectiveness is the absence of crime and disorder—and not, therefore, any activity on the part of the Government or police forces. The extra resources announced today have still given rise to serious concerns among local police authorities and forces about their ability to cope, given the level of the funding settlement. It is essential that those resources are matched with better police performance. Police reform, as well as police funding, should be the Government's priority.

6.23 pm

Mr. Paul Truswell (Pudsey) (Lab): What I am about to say will not surprise my hon. Friend the Minister. Our previous debate on issues relating to West Yorkshire dwelt mainly on reorganisation. I make no apology for repeating some of the funding issues to drive the message home.

As my hon. Friend knows, thanks to the Government's funding of record levels of police officers and the introduction of PCSOs in West Yorkshire, volume crime levels there have been driven down substantially. Pudsey and Weetwood division in my constituency has been at the forefront; in the last full year for which figures are available—2004–05—8,383 fewer crimes were committed there, a fall of 19 per cent. Figures for burglary and robbery and for theft of and from motor vehicles fell by even more, and the latest figures for the current year are showing that same downward trend.

Despite those encouraging figures, we still need more resources to maintain the downward trend on volume crime and make a much greater impact on antisocial behaviour and violent crime. We need to sustain that sort of progress, but we also need to meet major challenges. As I have said before to my hon. Friend, in    October 2005 Her Majesty's inspectorate of constabulary reported improvements across the board for West Yorkshire police; there was an excellent score for investigating crime, and good ratings for reducing crime, promoting safety and the effective use of resources.

More worryingly, the force's ratings for local policing and dealing with the public, although now improving, were still far short of what the people of west Yorkshire
 
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rightly demand. For example, the handling of calls is a continuing source of concern to my constituents. I regret to tell my hon. Friend that this latest funding round will not enable the progress that I have described to be sustained or the challenges that I have mentioned to be met.

The force's latest estimate of the budget increase needed next year is £17 million higher than the funding available with a precept increase of 5 per cent. Admittedly, that includes growth of funding for issues such as counter-terrorism, quality of service commitment and PCSO funding. However, even without that desirable growth, the funding gap is substantial, and that should not be the case. The funding formula has been revised in a way that reflects policing needs across west Yorkshire, and is much more generous than the funding formulae imposed by the Conservative party that benefited the south at the expense of the north.

Mr. Heath: Parts of the south.

Mr. Truswell: I accept that slight qualification.

The notional allocation from the full application of the formula would have been about £320 million, sufficient to fund the West Yorkshire force's base budget   without any significant increase in precept. Unfortunately, my hon. Friend and his colleagues have seen fit to set a floor of 3.2 per cent. As he rightly said, that is a virtually flat-rate increase, as in 2005–05, despite assurances—of which I would remind him if he were listening—that the Government would continue to move towards formula-driven allocations.

Once again, we in west Yorkshire are made to feel as if we are going cap in hand to plead with our bank manager to allow us to withdraw money from our own account. West Yorkshire police loses £14.2 million in 2006–07 as a result of that approach, and receives an overall increase in the general grant of only 3.4 per cent. Figures for 2007–08 show an ongoing loss of £14.7 million. That is the third largest clawback of any force in the country and represents 10 per cent. of the total amount needed to support forces below the floor. It is ironic that three of the forces most penalised by that approach contain, like west Yorkshire, concentrations of deprived populations with particular needs for protective services.

My hon. Friend and his colleagues know what the West Yorkshire force needs. The formula reflects those needs, but the funding simply does not. My hon. Friend made reference to the changes in funding arrangements for financing pensions; originally, the calculation was that the West Yorkshire force would lose something like £2 million as part of that process. I am pleased to hear what my hon. Friend has said, but would be grateful if he wrote to me to confirm that that £2 million funding gap over the pension arrangements initially calculated for the West Yorkshire force has been addressed by the measures that he mentioned today.

If West Yorkshire police authority is to set a budget within the capping constraints that does not seriously impact on service provision and officer strength, extra support will be needed, either through general or specific grant allocations. Obviously, I would like my hon. Friend and his colleagues to review and revise the
 
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formula funding elements and the impact of the pension arrangements to which I have just referred. However, there are several discretionary areas, which we have explored before, through which the West Yorkshire force could be assisted without making a special case in formula funding terms.

My hon. Friend will be aware of the excellent work done by West Yorkshire in the wake of the London bombings and their unfortunate connection with Leeds. The Home Office is considering the claim put in by West Yorkshire, and the current estimate of the additional cost of reacting to the challenges following the London bombings is about £5.9 million. Meeting those costs would obviously go some way towards filling the funding gap. The force has also submitted a bid through ACPO's terrorism and allied matters group for funding for a local counter-terrorism unit, similar to the one that operates in the west midlands. That bid is still outstanding and is the subject of a great deal of to-ing and fro-ing between Home Office officials and the force. Any influence that my hon. Friend can bring to bear on resolving that issue, and meeting that bill, would be gratefully received.

At our last meeting, I referred to the designation of Leeds-Bradford airport, and my hon. Friend kindly wrote to explain that a review was taking place and was due to report in the spring. I hope that any recommendations on funding West Yorkshire police, particularly my own division of Pudsey and Weetwood, from which come many of the abstractions necessary to police the airport, are looked on favourably.

To ensure that as many hon. Members as possible get an opportunity to speak, I shall conclude. On the basis of the points made today and previously to my right hon. and hon. Friends in the Home Office, I hope that they will understand why people in west Yorkshire feel a bit like the Bisto urchins; we can smell the gravy, but we cannot quite get a taste of it. I hope that the Minister will be able to address my points, although not necessarily in his summing-up speech as I should be grateful if he wrote to me in detail about some of the issues I have raised.

6.32 pm


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