Police Grant Report

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Prime Minister – in the House of Commons at 3:28 pm on 3rd February 2010.

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Photo of Humfrey Malins Humfrey Malins Conservative, Woking 3:28 pm, 3rd February 2010

That drags us into the issue of the formula, which is mind-bogglingly complicated. I shall address that in a minute. If we work out our population and the application of the formula over those many years, we are left with the figure that I gave the House a moment ago.

Surrey has rather different problems from those of any other county. We are the best away-day county for criminals. I do not say that all criminals come from somewhere other than Surrey, but the M25 has certainly helped them. When my house in Surrey was burgled seven years ago, I was sure that an hour and a half later the burglars were somewhere north of London. I do not know why I think that all burglars come from north, as opposed to south, London. What a bias I show! I do not mean that at all; I withdraw it. However, the reality is that the motorway has helped considerably. Being serious, I think that 50 per cent. of crimes in our county are committed by cross-border criminals from neighbouring areas. That aspect of life in Surrey is not accounted for in the funding formula. We have extra, different problems and responsibilities in Surrey, and they are not reflected in the formula, although I hope that they might be in the future.

At this point, I address my remarks particularly to my hon. Friend on the Opposition Front Bench. The M25, for example, has extra policing requirements, and we also have to help with Gatwick and Heathrow, which are both massive airports. Then there is the odd, one-off case, of which Surrey seems to have rather too many. They are the one-off cases in which there is an extra bill for Surrey council tax payers, who fund the police precept. A typical example was the General Pinochet situation, when we had to look after him in Surrey for years and years but got no extra money for doing so.

There is another little issue, which I discussed with the chief constable not long ago: terrorism. One thinks of Surrey as a county with leafy lanes; one would not somehow associate it with terrorism. But in Surrey there are potential cells-put it that way-of people who do not mean well, and I know that the burden of expense on the police force has been increasing. Trying to explain that Surrey faced extra burdens in that connection, I raised that issue, and some time ago so did my noble Friend Lord Trefgarne. He did so in the other place with the noble Lord West, who answered on behalf of the Government. As I have said, Surrey does very well with a low grant.

It was sad when our policing grant was capped, however. It was a terrible business when the decision was announced. We had a big debate about it in Westminster Hall and I remember that all my Surrey colleagues were there. The decision was made to ask Surrey police to return £1.6 million to the Surrey tax payer at an actual cost of £1.2 million. It is ludicrous to spend £1.2 million to send back £1.6 million, and it was an indefensible decision. When we set that against the chronic shortfall in central Government funding, in particular, we find that it was a sad state of affairs.

I come now to the funding formula. I am not aware of whether you, Madam Deputy Speaker, have a first-class degree in mathematics-that seems to me entirely possible-and the Minister may well have such a degree. However, I defy any Member of the House to explain, in comprehensible terms, what this formula is. For posterity, I shall quote from a magnificent document called "The Police Grant Report". Wait for it, Madam Deputy Speaker-it is incomprehensible. I have never, in-I was going to say my 64 years of life, but I will say my long life-come across anything that is such gobbledegook: I am flabbergasted by it. This part is one of about 15-it talks about something called top-ups, and is headed "Police Crime Top-Up 1". Here we go; I advise the Minister to make a note:

"2.6482 multiplied by DAYTIME NET INFLOW PER RESIDENT POPULATION; plus

0.2953 multiplied by LOG OF BARS PER 100 HECTARES; plus

16.2210 multiplied by INCOME SUPPORT/INCOME BASED JSA/GUARANTEE ELEMENT OF PENSION CREDIT CLAIMANTS; plus

34.1326 multiplied by SINGLE PARENT HOUSEHOLDS".

Well, it is impossible; I could look at that on an exam paper for a couple of hours and would not have the slightest clue. At the end of the document, under the heading "Scaling Factor"-I do not have a clue what a scaling factor is, and I am still none the wiser-it says:

"The scaling factor used in paragraph 5.6...is:

0.999997836417373".

It is magnificent.

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