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29 Nov 2006 : Column 140WH—continued

Mr. Coaker: I am aware that the Derbyshire force feels that it has grounds for complaint because the operation of the formula is subject to a damping
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mechanism and it is a net loser. The damping mechanism is to ensure that no forces suffer a dramatic decrease in funding from one year to the next.

Mr. Todd: That point is consensual—we need a damping mechanism—but why do police authorities have a floor of 3.6 per cent. while all other local authorities have a floor of 2.7 per cent.? When the floor is set that high, the effect on gaining authorities is much greater, as it is in this instance.

Mr. Coaker: We set the floor for the police grant at that level because it ensures that there is a reasonable grant increase for all forces across the country. This is not about the Government holding back money that should be allocated to forces. We are trying to ensure that there is a reasonable and fair distribution nationally of that fixed pot of money. My hon. Friend is an assiduous constituency Member and is clearly pressing the case for his police force. We would all do that in the circumstances.

Mr. Todd: I am not pressing the case just for my force. Perhaps unusually, I am pressing the argument for the objective test that the Government established—the formula. I want to ensure that it is applied as rapidly as it reasonably can be while protecting the interests of police authorities. I remain puzzled as to why the level of protection needs to be so much higher for police authorities. Even a minor reduction in the floor from 3.6 per cent. nearer to 3 per cent. would make a big difference in the amount that gaining authorities could retain. At the moment, they are paying entirely for the protection of those who are losing.

Mr. Coaker: I repeat that we have set the floor at a level that is consistent with ensuring that all forces across the country receive reasonable increases.

There are only a couple of minutes left, so I move quickly on. We are committed to rolling out
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neighbourhood policing and Derbyshire is no exception to that. A great deal of progress has been made on that, particularly with police community support officers. Next year, Derbyshire can expect to have 160 PCSOs, and its specific grant allocation for PCSOs will increase from £2.5 million in this financial year to £3.4 million in the coming year.

My hon. Friend the Member for Amber Valley made an important point about tackling sexual violence. In addition to the money that we give to police and that we have put into neighbourhood and local policing, which she acknowledged makes a real contribution to that work, we have introduced a series of measures to support communities in dealing with domestic and sexual violence, such as introducing the use of domestic violence advisers. That happens alongside neighbourhood policing.

Judy Mallaber: There still needs to be funding directly to the police service. Will there be a movement towards using the police formula in future years, particularly given that Derbyshire had the fourth-highest assessed funding formula increase? Will we be able to move in that direction?

Mr. Coaker: I will answer that in the few seconds left. My hon. Friend will know that this year’s allocation is subject to consultation. No decisions have been made for future years within the comprehensive spending review. That process will be open to representations from hon. Members.

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for South Derbyshire for the contribution that he continues to make to this debate. There have been real increases in funding in Derbyshire and in other parts of the country. No doubt the debate will continue as to what is the fairest way of distributing that increased pot across the country.

It being Five o’clock, the motion for the Adjournment of the sitting lapsed, without Question put.

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