In a minute.
I want to test further what the Government are saying will happen in 2010-11 on the basis of the grant settlement. I was troubled by what the Chancellor said in his statement on the pre-Budget report, because it does not make sense to a lot of those in the police service. He said:
"I am today able to offer...sufficient funding to maintain the number of police and community support officers. That means that I can confirm not just that we will increase spending as planned next year on hospitals, schools and policing, but we can pledge that spending on these crucial front-line services will continue to rise over and above inflation after 2010-11".-[ Hansard, 9 December 2009; Vol. 502, c. 370-1.]
The evidence from the Home Affairs Committee clearly shows that police forces around the country have, or are preparing to, cut the number of staff and officers. I am amazed that the Minister does not have an answer to that. Can he please tell us how this Government are planning on, as he claims, guaranteeing police officer numbers when we do not have any details on police budgets after 2011? Crucially, can he tell us how he defines front-line policing services, because those were the words that slipped into the Chancellor's pre-Budget report? If the Minister is defending that, what is the definition of front-line policing services? It cannot mean police strength because police authorities have already told the Home Affairs Committee that those numbers are being cut and will be cut. It is a total mystery to me what protecting front-line policing services means in that context.
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