Police Grant Report

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Prime Minister – in the House of Commons at 3:38 pm on 3rd February 2010.

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Photo of Gary Streeter Gary Streeter Conservative, South West Devon 3:38 pm, 3rd February 2010

It is a great pleasure and privilege to follow my hon. Friend Mr. Malins. The House will miss his witty interventions when he retires-ridiculously early, if I may say so-at the next general election.

In this short debate, we are considering the police support grant for 2010-11. However, the elephant in the room is what happens in April 2011 for 2011-12 and onwards.

It is good to see that Keith Vaz, the Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee, has come back into the Chamber. I know that he is going to stay throughout the entirety of my speech, so he may wish to take his place. I agree with him that much of the evidence that we have heard over recent weeks and months suggests that from April 2011 onwards, there will certainly be a tightening of the position. Many chief constables and police authorities around the country are concerned about that.

It seems to me that whoever wins the election, from April 2011 there will be a tightening of budgets. The key challenge is protecting front-line policing when budgets will be under constant pressure, probably for three to five years. Obviously, that will partly depend on individual police officers being able to improve how they deliver services, through some of the ideas that have come forward this afternoon, and it will partly be about saving costs elsewhere in the system in a way that does not have an impact on front-line policing. I wish to suggest one possible way of doing that, using my own police authority-Devon and Cornwall-as an example.

First, I wish to say that Devon and Cornwall has a good police authority and a good police force, and I pay tribute to all the hard-working police officers in my constituency, whether they are inspectors, sergeants, constables or police community support officers. Day in, day out, they do an excellent job, and all credit to them. I obviously welcome the uplift in the amount of money that Devon and Cornwall will receive over the next 12 months-an additional £5.746 million, making a total grant from the Government of £117 million, which is very welcome. The police authority's total spend in the 12 months to March 2009 was £295 million, which shows that a lot of its income is received apart from Government, but we welcome any increases in Government funding.

As I said, from April 2011 we will struggle to safeguard front-line policing, whoever is in power. How can we do that? I was looking last night, sad person that I am, through the Devon and Cornwall police accounts for the year to 31 March 2009. I was interested to note that it cost £1.4 million to run the police authority-not the police force but the bureaucracy and administration necessary to support it. If we are successful in winning the next election-let us face it, it is by no means in the bag and it will be a very close contest-our innovative and radical plan of electing police commissioners will cut most of that cost at a stroke. As a country we are short of radical ideas for police forces, but that would mean that we would not need so much bureaucracy, so that £1.4 million could mainly be diverted towards police officers.

I know that the chief constable of Devon and Cornwall will not thank me for pointing this out, and he is a good chief constable doing a good job, but I was interested to note that he is paid a salary of more than £175,000.

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