Police Grant Report

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Prime Minister – in the House of Commons at 1:39 pm on 3rd February 2010.

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Photo of David Hanson David Hanson Minister of State (Home Office) (Crime and Policing) 1:39 pm, 3rd February 2010

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 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 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 Mr. Truswell, who raised this issue, will 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 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.

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 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.

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