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I have received representations on the funding of North Yorkshire police from the hon. Member for Vale of York (Miss McIntosh) and from other Members who represent that area. I replied to the hon. Lady on 25 January. Under proposals approved by the House on 3 February, North Yorkshire police's funding will increase by 2.7 per cent. next year.
Does the Minister agree that he is failing to deliver on the Home Secretary's pledge of more police on the beat, and that he is failing to deliver the necessary resources in North Yorkshire? Representations that I have received from the police authority and from town and parish councils show that the North Yorkshire police will not have enough to cover the millennium policing and the cost of the police radios, that the increase in funding is below the national average and that the rise in police pension costs will leave a shortfall of 2.5 per cent. That will require an equivalent rise in the reserves as well as an increase on the levy. When will the Government deliver on their pledges?
I do not accept what the hon. Lady says. The facts are as follows. First, in the 12 months to October 1999, crime in North Yorkshire decreased by 0.1 per cent. at a time when crime nationally was increasing. Secondly, the spending capacity of North Yorkshire police in the current year—1999–2000—is an increase of 3.2 per cent. over 1998–99, and that is above the national average of 3.1 per cent. Thirdly, North Yorkshire will receive funding from the crime-fighting fund for 25 police recruits over the next three years, which is a significant improvement for that force.
Does my hon. Friend recognise that the standard spending assessment for North Yorkshire police and for other police forces in rural areas would be significantly affected if a sparsity factor were introduced? What are the prospects of such a factor being introduced in future years?
I have received representations on the sparsity factor from a variety of different forces and from my hon. Friend and colleagues on both sides of the House. We are taking that factor fully into consideration. We have published the report. The details and that factor will be part of the considerations in future spending reviews.