Previous Section Index Home Page

This Bill says that we as a House and country shall not forget.

Question put and agreed to.


That Mr. David Burrowes, Shona McIsaac, Robert Key, Jim Sheridan, Dr. Andrew Murrison, Mr. Colin Breed, Mr. Charles Walker, Mike Penning, Angela Watkinson, Mr. Graham Stuart, John Mann and Michael Fabricant present the Bill.

Mr. David Burrowes accordingly presented the Bill.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 30 April, and to be printed (Bill 60).

3 Feb 2010 : Column 321

Police Grant Report

1.39 pm

The Minister for Policing, Crime and Counter-Terrorism (Mr. David Hanson): I beg to move,

This debate takes place against a backdrop of record falls in crime and record levels of police numbers. One thing that can be said about the Government, more than anything else, is that we have invested in police and policing numbers, not just through neighbourhood policing, protective services and collaboration programmes, but in relation to all aspects of the police service. I am delighted, therefore, that the British crime survey and figures last week showed a marked reduction in crime for 2008-09, compared with 2007-08.

It is worth placing that on the record because the police do a magnificent job, as has been shown by the fact that over the past year total recorded crime fell by 5 per cent.; vehicle crime by 10 per cent.; violence against the person by 6 per cent; robbery by 5 per cent.; sexual offences by 4 per cent.; robbery with a knife by 2 per cent.; and firearm offences by 17 per cent. Challenges remain, but I put it to the House that, whatever is said in this debate, those figures are good, particularly given that we are coming out of a recession. Normally, under such circumstances, crime would rise, but actually, over the past 12 months, in what have been-by any stretch of the imagination-challenging financial circumstances, crime has fallen.

That can be added to the overall drop in crime of 36 per cent. since 1997, which is a very positive thing. The House will also know that the British crime survey last week showed that confidence in policing is now at 50 per cent. and that the chance of being a victim of crime is the lowest since records began. That is the backdrop to today's settlement and discussion. Coupled with those falls in crime, last week I was able to announce historically high numbers of police officers and staff on the streets. Figures published last week show that police officer strength remains at 142,688, which is an increase of nearly 17,000 officers over the past 13 years.

Obviously there are variations, challenges and difficulties, which no doubt will come out in the debate, but the record numbers of police officers, and indeed police community support officers-more than 16,000-show that today's settlement is building on a history of strong settlements that have seen crime fall, policing numbers rise and the introduction of PCSOs. The levels of confidence in policing and the fact that a person's chance of being a victim of crime is the lowest ever show that the Government have done a good job to date.

Mr. Paul Truswell (Pudsey) (Lab): My right hon. Friend will be aware that the Government improved the funding formula for West Yorkshire police. Nevertheless, it is still £18 million adrift of the figure it would get were it fully funded. Will he and his colleagues consider how police authorities such as West Yorkshire can bridge that gap, so that they can continue to enjoy record levels of police officers and the subsequent major impact on crime?

3 Feb 2010 : Column 322

Mr. Hanson: I will return to the funding formula later because it is an important issue, and a number of representations have been made by different forces about some of the inequities in the funding formula. We are currently considering the matter, and will continue to do so in the future, but my hon. Friend will know that, this year, West Yorkshire police saw an increase of 3.3 per cent.-£11.3 million-for the next financial year. Historically, West Yorkshire police funding has increased by 37 per cent. in real terms over the past 13 years.

Mr. Stewart Jackson (Peterborough) (Con): Why has the Home Office consistently failed, until recently-with the migration impact forum-properly to take into account the significant impact on crime and policing of large-scale migration since May 2004 from eastern European countries? Does the Minister agree that that has had significant ramification for the number of police whom people in Cambridgeshire, where my constituency is located, expect to see on the beat? Why is that the case?

Mr. Hanson: As the hon. Gentleman will know, that is one of the issues on which we have received representations, including from the chief constable of his own force. However, I hope that when the hon. Gentleman reflects on Cambridgeshire police funding, he will be pleased that the Labour Government have delivered an extra 109 police officers to his force in the past 13 years, that 33 per cent. more resource is going in than did under the Tory Government, and that even this year, in these challenging times, his force has £2.5 million more than it did last year-and all that from a Labour Government. I hope that he recognises those facts when he talks to his local police authority about the Government's performance in those areas.

Mr. Jackson indicated dissent.

Mr. Hanson: The hon. Gentleman is not happy?

Mr. Jackson: My chief constable is not happy!

Mr. Hanson: Those figures are facts. They relate to the funding given by the Labour Government to Cambridgeshire police. The hon. Gentleman needs to recognise that fact. But let us put that to one side.

Simon Hughes (North Southwark and Bermondsey) (LD): Funding statistics and formulae are important, although most people are more worried about outcomes than how we get there, but can the Minister assure us that the population figures, whether or not they include people on the electoral register, are up to date as the basis of the formula? That has been a recurrent issue for local government and other service funders in London. Will he also comment on the fact that there is still some doubt about the veracity of the crime figures, which-if he is to be believed-are falling? Although that is to be welcomed, to have public confidence the figures ought to be arrived at in an entirely neutral way and separate from the Government as far as possible.

Mr. Hanson: The crime figures which I commented on-not announced-10 days ago were announced by the Office for National Statistics, which is independent of the Government. Indeed, I see the crime figures only as a matter of courtesy a few hours before they are
3 Feb 2010 : Column 323
produced, so they are independent. I do not gerrymander them. I take the hon. Gentleman's point about the important population issues, but under any measure crime has fallen across England and Wales over the past 13 years, including in London and key areas as a whole.

Bob Spink (Castle Point) (Ind): The Minister will know that police numbers in Essex have increased, and he will probably have guessed that I will seek to claim credit for that. However, people out there know that the real reason is that the Government have increased funding to enable police numbers in Essex to increase, and I thank him for that. However, will he use innovative surveillance and high-tech equipment to improve policing-for instance, vehicle automatic number plate recognition systems? We need those to clamp down on burglaries, which are a particular problem on Canvey island, for instance.

Mr. Hanson: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his support. He recognises, as I do, that there has been a 30 per cent. real-terms increase in funding for Essex, that there will be a £5.2 million increase-2.9 per cent.-next year and that there has been an historical fall in crime over the past five years of nearly 6 per cent. I fully accept that there is always more that we can do, and the automatic number plate recognition is a valuable tool-I know from my constituency how it helps to identify potential vehicle crime and to reduce crime. However, it relates to issues not only of vehicle crime, but of mobile burglary and people who cross borders to commit crimes. I certainly, therefore, encourage and support its further use, for which we should all be grateful.

Let me turn to the nub of today's debate. The police revenue support grant, which was laid on 20 January, confirmed the indicative figures, and we are implementing the 2010-11 funding settlement as announced in December 2007, which is good news for the police. Between 1997 and 2010-11, we have increased the police service grant by about £3.7 billion-a cash increase of 60 per cent. and a real-terms increase of almost 20 per cent. The figures that I gave to the hon. Member for Peterborough (Mr. Jackson) can be replicated across the board in every police authority in England and Wales and represent a substantial increase in funding. They show that this year total Government funding for the 2010-11 cycle in today's report will be more than £9.7 billion-an overall increase of 2.7 per cent. on 2009-10. Some £8.5 billion of that provision is for the police general formula grant, and there is also an additional £1.2 million in specific grant funding, to which I will return later.

We gave those commitments several years ago. In fact, they were probably given by my right hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. McNulty), who is with us today, as part of the three-year cycle of this comprehensive review. We kept those commitments and delivered on them in 2008 and 2009, and now in 2010-11. We have also kept ring-fenced funding to a minimum, so that we can allow forces the maximum flexibility in deciding how to allocate and spend their resources. The police grant deals with Home Office general police grant for revenue expenditure. The amounts for individual police authorities are set out in the papers before the House today, and I hope that they will be generally welcomed.

We have set a minimum floor of 2.5 per cent. for the grant provision for 2010-11. My hon. Friend the Member for Pudsey (Mr. Truswell), who raised this issue, will
3 Feb 2010 : Column 324
know that, whatever our views on the funding formula, the fact that we have set a minimum rise of 2.5 per cent. is helpful to many forces. It means that each police authority in England and Wales is guaranteed an increase of at least that level. In my view, that is a positive announcement. We are trying to strike what I would describe as a sensible balance on the issues in economically challenging times.

Indeed, I would be interested to hear from the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Ruffley) about whether, in what I would obviously see as the unlikely event of a change of Government, he will commit himself to the 2.5 per cent. increase that we have put in place for next year, whether he will support that funding for police community support officers, and whether he will support the ring-fencing of that funding, because those are crucial matters that will form part of our debate between now and whenever my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister calls the general election. We want to look at the funding formula review, and we will do so shortly. I hope that we will be in a position to do that in the next 12 months.

There has been no change to rule 2 grants since the start of the current spending review, in 2008-09. Police authorities have complete flexibility on how best to use that resource.

Specifically on the settlement, we have also put in place absolutely committed funding for neighbourhood policing, as the foundation for local police in the 21st century. That is why, for 2010-11 we are maintaining and increasing the ring-fenced funding that helps to support those 16,000 police community support officers. I look forward to hearing the hon. Gentleman make a commitment to fund those 16,000 PCSOs next year, in the unlikely event of a change of Government, or at least supporting me from the Opposition Benches for the good that the Government are doing on that. PCSOs provide a valuable resource, delivering on the policing pledge commitments and raising public confidence. Neighbourhood policing is the key. That investment is making a difference and contributing to the crime falls that I mentioned. We will shortly produce a safe and confident neighbourhoods strategy, which will look at how we develop the policy still further. I look forward to giving the House details of that, I hope within the next month.

As well as the policing of local communities, which is the bedrock of our activity, we also need to look at protective services and the collaboration programme, to ensure that we drive up and develop minimum standards across the board. We have made an additional £2.2 million available in the settlement today to help deliver regional capability in tackling regional crime, which is a serious issue and one that we need to address. We are keen to ensure that we aid the police in reducing crime and have designed programmes accordingly.

In today's announcement, we have also committed to the basic command unit fund and ensured that forces receive the same allocation in 2010-11-a total of £40 million-as previously. From my perspective, public confidence is at the heart of our agenda-public confidence on issues such as antisocial behaviour and crimes that matter locally, which are best dealt with by locally supported forces. That £40 million is extremely valuable.

3 Feb 2010 : Column 325

In the document before the House, we have also confirmed the capital spending for supported capital expenditure for next year. Again, I say to the hon. Gentleman and others that we have committed a total of £220 million. That is money that we said we would allocate previously-we have committed to it and continued to support it. That has meant some difficult and challenging decisions, but, by making that commitment today, we have been able to support that capital expenditure firmly, which is good news for the police in dealing with the capital issues that they need to address.

Almost finally, for Welsh police authorities, which are close to my heart as a Member of Parliament representing a Welsh constituency, we have set a minimum increase in the grant, in line with English authorities. We have again adjusted the Home Office police grant for Welsh police authorities, to maintain consistency with those in England. The additional support will total £16 million this year and will help to maintain police numbers and reduce crime.

I should also like to report to the House that we asked for, and received, representations in our consultation on the settlement. However, I received only four sets of written representations about the settlement, from four police authority areas. That is fewer than in previous years and a little more than a quarter of the representations that were received last year. That indicates the level of support not just in the House, but in the community, for the proposals that I am putting before the House. Following those representations, we have laid the papers before the House, which in my view show a good settlement, which is something that we need to take into account.

The pre-Budget report of December 2009 is also crucial to our consideration today. It has enhanced our immediate understanding of the future funding of the police, by announcing, through my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that sufficient funding will be made available to 2012-13 to enable police authorities to maintain the current numbers of warranted police officers, as well as police community support officers and other staff exercising police powers. Again, that is a commitment from this Government to real money, on the table, to fund real police officers out on the street, reducing crime still further.

I do not wish to be too political-although we are in interesting times-but that is a commitment on the funding to date that was announced in the pre-Budget report. I hope that that commitment will be subject to debate, and I look forward to receiving the hon. Gentleman's support, because it sets the framework for the confidence that police authorities can have in knowing that the record numbers of police that we have provided will continue, should they wish them to.

Next year we will also maximise the increase in the general grant, providing a further £2.5 million to ensure that all police authorities have received that minimum increase. Again, at a time of falling public spending and challenges, which normally increase in a recession, that is a good indicator of the extra resources that are being supplied, and that at a time of falling crime.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government will speak later on the implications for local government spending of
3 Feb 2010 : Column 326
police funding. However, there will also be debates and consideration about the capping action, decided in 2008-09, on Cheshire, Leicestershire and Warwickshire, in advance of the 2010-11 settlement, as a result of previous excessive increases set by those authorities. Cheshire and Leicestershire have accepted their caps, whereas Warwickshire will be debated as part of our discussions later today. However, despite those difficulties and challenges locally, there are genuine funding increases today that we should welcome.

In summary, we have positive falls in crime, record numbers of police and a commitment next year to a minimum of 2.5 per cent. for each force. That is good news at a time of recession. We are seeking greater value for money from police authorities generally, and there will be a drive next year to look at issues that we raised in the White Paper and commented on yesterday, in producing our high-level group report on value for money. We need to drive better efficiency and value in the system. We need to ensure that we reduce police overtime and look at better procurement and the better deployment of officers. However, the resource is there, and this House can commit to it today. I hope that Members in all parts of the House will commit to it, because this Government have a proud record on policing and police numbers. I want that to continue next year, and I commend the motion to the House.

1.58 pm

Mr. David Ruffley (Bury St. Edmunds) (Con): The one thing that we can agree on in this debate is that the police of this country do a difficult and usually very dangerous job. On behalf of the Opposition, I would like to pay tribute to their service. They need the resources to discharge their duties to the public in upholding law and order, which is why this debate is so important. This year's settlement is the final part of the three-year comprehensive spending review. Excluding additional grants for counter-terrorism and other specific grants, the police settlement will increase by 2.7 per cent. this year. Including specific grants, total revenue funding will also increase by 2.7 per cent.

It is worth flagging up a few issues that many outside this House, and not just police authorities, have with the distribution of the police grant. It is a complicated calculation, based, as we know, on five separate components, including the needs-based formula, or the "principal formula"; additional rule 1, which reduces grant provision for the South Wales police authority and redistributes it to other police authorities in Wales; and additional rule 2. In the past, the Home Secretary distributed specific grants such as the rural policing grant, the forensic grant and the initial police learning and development programme grant. The Home Office decision to amalgamate those grants into a single pot, so that police authorities could have more control over how those funds were used, was welcome. The Home Office also distributes specific grants for police authorities. Finally, the police grant floors are applied. I will return to that issue of scaling later.

What we do know is that this year there are 20 police authorities in total receiving the lowest increase of 2.5 per cent., including Cheshire, Gloucestershire, Lincolnshire, Suffolk, Surrey and the Met. The biggest increase in the police grant is received by the West Midlands at 3.9 per cent.

Next Section Index Home Page