Police Grant Report

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Prime Minister – in the House of Commons at 1:58 pm on 3rd February 2010.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of David Ruffley David Ruffley Shadow Minister (Home Affairs) 1:58 pm, 3rd February 2010

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. We had a discussion about one bit of good practice-the four pilots for lighter and more nimble recording practice. I remember that when we discussed it in July, I asked the right hon. Gentleman how many forces had adopted this pilot of slimline recording, which was happening in the west midlands, Staffordshire, Surrey and Leicestershire, but he did not know. He said that I had asked a good question, but I thought it notable that he, the Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee, was unaware of how far this practice had been rolled out and adopted. I am sure that the Minister would agree that there is a need for some direction from the centre on certain issues. This provides one tangible example of bureaucracy reduction that has not been driven forward and has not delivered the gains that it could have. As the shadow Home Secretary has said, we intend to make this one of our priorities.

Making better use of resources is at the heart of the grant settlement before us. All police authorities understand that they need to get more from less. Police authorities should be encouraged to find savings in back office and procurement, and release them for use on the front line. We all agree on that. Why, however, has the Minister not used the powers in the Policing and Crime Act 2009, which gave the Home Secretary powers to mandate collaboration on areas of procurement-both information technology and non-IT procurement-that could yield efficiency savings? Powers to mandate have been available for a few months now, so can the Minister tell us whether he is contemplating use of any of these mandated powers to squeeze more efficiencies out of the system? If not, why not? The Minister has cheerfully spoken about the prospects of another Labour Government and how 2010-11 will be all sweetness and light, but if he is going to make promises about spending, will he tell us what he intends about mandation and squeezing more bang for the buck?

On the police grant formula, I have received many representations recently regarding the operation of police grant floors and I would like to raise one or two of them with the Minister. As written evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee has highlighted, because of the operation of scaling and floors, forces such as Hampshire receive £1.5 million less than they should under the principal needs formula. Similarly, I have received extensive representations from Derbyshire police authority and constabulary, as due to the cost of providing floor protection within the funding formula, they lose out to the tune of £5 million a year. I could cite many other examples and I am sure that hon. Members from all parties could provide their own for me and the Minister.

We welcomed the removal of the ceiling that the then Minister with responsibility for crime and policing announced in 2008. In that debate, the Minister said that

"we were able this year at least to announce a settlement that had no ceiling. Some progress has therefore been made towards the formula and I hope that, in the coming years, it will continue, if not accelerate somewhat."-[ Hansard, 4 February 2008; Vol. 471, c. 673.]

Will the present Minister be more precise and give us an update from that statement of two years ago?

It is quite clear that we need to move towards applying the needs-based formula more purely. There is a need for that to happen, and I think that all Members will see the sense of that. Sir Ronnie Flanagan, in his final report into the future of policing-it was essentially about bureaucracy, but he understood how resourcing impacted on that-said of grant floors that

"if we are to get the best performance return for our investment over the lean times ahead, we must start to deal with these anomalies."

He went on to suggest:

"I think it prudent that, from that point on, there should be a staged relaxation of the 'floors and ceilings'- well, the ceilings bit has been dealt with-

"which dampen changes in allocations, possibly combined with special consideration for those few Forces which would face the most significant reductions in funding."

The Home Affairs Committee confirmed that by saying:

"we support Sir Ronnie Flanagan's recommendation for full application of the police funding formula at the next Spending Review."

We did not get the next spending review, because the Government funked that rather significant policy and political challenge. Today I give the Minister an opportunity to atone for the Government's sins, and to say "All right, we did not carry out the CSR, but we will give some indication"-an update on the statement given two years ago by his right hon. Friend Mr. McNulty-"of the stage that we have reached in regard to the future of floors and the full application of the police funding formula."

I look forward to the Minister's response. Given that he has been specific about some of what will allegedly happen to police strength in 2010-11, I think it important for him to be a bit more specific about the future of the floors that constitute the basis of the document before us.

Embed this video

Copy and paste this code on your website