The number of police officers is not set by central Government, but we believe that forces can make savings to ensure that visible and available policing is secured for the public.
Order. I realise that the right hon. Gentleman was slightly out of breath or a bit uncertain in coming to the Dispatch Box, but I believe that he is seeking to group the question with Question 8.
What recent discussions she has had with police forces on the likely number of (a) police officers and (b) police community support officers at the end of the 2014-15 financial year.
Will the Minister note that there are 337 police community support officers in South Yorkshire whose jobs are at risk because of cuts in both police and local government budgets? Those officers have made an enormous contribution to the reduction in crime and the fear of crime. Does he accept that people across the country would believe that money was better spent on those posts than on the £100 million that the Government propose to waste on police commissioners?
First, I should say to the hon. Gentleman that our intention is that directly elected police and crime commissioners should cost no more than existing police authorities. Of course there will be a cost for elections once every four years-an average of £12 million a year, which is less than 0.1% of the national policing budget. We are determined to do everything we can to protect front-line policing and the number of police community support officers. We think they do a very valuable job in our communities.
As the Minister is no doubt aware, Northumbria police force, which covers my constituency, has recently confirmed that it is to make 450 civilian staff redundant immediately and it is imposing a recruitment freeze on all front-line posts, all because of the cuts made by the Home Secretary. Does the Minister think that those cuts to front-line policing will make my constituents safer?
Order. Opposition Members' hearing is playing tricks with them. They did not hear what they thought they heard.
Mr Speaker, I am in very good company today.
Mrs Hodgson said that these were cuts to police staff. In all, there are more than 6,000 members of staff in Northumbria police force, including police officers, and I repeat that our determination is to do everything we can to support forces in making savings to the back office, in order to protect the front line and the visible and available policing that the public value.
I am afraid I cannot give an answer to my hon. Friend right now. We will shortly be announcing the provisional police grant. At that point, we will tell the House what we plan to do with the neighbourhood policing fund.
I am sure that my right hon. Friend would like to congratulate the large number of regular police officers and police community support officers who have responded, often unpaid, to the crises of the past few weeks, including the bomb at east midlands airport, the violence here in Westminster and so on. In view of the spending review, how will we cope in future with the need for surging officers when those occasions occur?
As my hon. Friend knows, we prioritise counter-terrorism funding to policing, and it has received a measure of protection in the funding settlement. We will, of course, continue to prioritise it.
The Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice is having a busy and rather stressful afternoon. I was hoping to ask the Home Secretary about police funding and numbers-and it looked like he thought that she would answer this question too. In any case, may I ask him about the Home Secretary's Cabinet-level spending negotiations? I hope that she has filled him in on what went on. This week, the cross-party association of police officers wrote to the Home Office to ask for the spending review settlement for the police-20% front-end loaded cuts, followed by 6% next year and 8% the year after-to be reopened in order to
"Any Cabinet minister...who comes to me and says 'here are my plans and they involve front line reductions' will be sent back to their department to go away and think again."
If the Prime Minister has not told the Home Secretary to go away and think again, will she listen to police chiefs up and down the country urging her to do just that?
I think that the right hon. Gentleman was referring to the Association of Police Authorities. The House might not have heard that he told the Home Affairs Committee seminar in Cannock on
The deputy to the Home Secretary will have to do a lot better than that. These cuts are front-end loaded and go well beyond the 12% over four years that Her Majesty's inspectorate of constabulary said was do-able. I am pleased that he has not repeated the 11% smear against our police, which he knows is a completely corrupt and erroneous statistic. Hon. Members should look at the numbers. In north Wales, 230 officers are to go; in the west midlands, 1,100; and in Greater Manchester, 1,387. The chief constable of Greater Manchester police said that
"there will be a reduction in frontline police officer numbers".
The Home Secretary was not willing to stand up for the police in the spending review, and she is not willing either to stand up in the House and answer my questions on the police. She can refuse to answer my questions, but she cannot refuse to answer the questions from police officers and the public all around the country. Today-
I call on the Home Secretary to listen to police chiefs and the public, and I demand that her spending settlement be reopened, that there is an end to front-end loading and that there is a better deal for the police.
First, may I say that I am absolutely astonished by the right hon. Gentleman's attack on the figure of only 11% of total police strength being visible and available to the public at any one time? That was the finding of a report by Her Majesty's inspectorate of constabulary, and if he takes issue with it, perhaps he will speak to the inspectorate. I think it is disgraceful that he should attack the figure in that way. The report stated:
"The fact is that general availability, in which we include neighbourhood policing and response, is relatively low."
The right hon. Gentleman also quoted the chief constable of Greater Manchester police. In announcing the changes that he was making to the force, the chief constable said that
"the end result will be more resources put into frontline policing and a more efficient and effective service for the people of Greater Manchester."
Instead of scaremongering in this way, and instead of attacking the correction that we are having to make, perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will accept responsibility for bequeathing the deficit to this country that has meant that we have had to deal with public expenditure.