I am grateful to my right hon. Friend, and the Committee explored in some detail the differences between the budgets for the Serious Organised Crime Agency, the National Policing Improvement Agency and the new National Crime Agency. We shed light on the fact that there is a major gap in the funding, but we could not get answers on where that funding has disappeared. I am sure suspect that my right hon. Friend, who so ably leads the Home Affairs Committee, will explore that in some detail over the next few weeks.
The Minister and I will not have a meeting of minds on this matter, but perhaps he will listen to a few voices from out in the community. For example, an individual who shall remain nameless for the moment said:
“I just want the public to understand how tight things really are because I think there’s a feeling out there that it’s OK.”
That was the Conservative police and crime commissioner, John Dwyer in Cheshire, complaining about the fact that he has to bring forward a budget axing 38 police officers and 25 back-office staff.
In a statement this week, Nick Alston, the Conservative police and crime commissioner for Essex, said that the force’s financial position is
“even more challenging than I suspected when taking office just over two months ago.”
The police and crime commissioner for Cornwall, Tony Hogg, again a Conservative party member, said that the Government’s offer of freezing council tax in exchange for a 1% increase in grant would leave the force facing a “fiscal cliff” in two year’s time and an annual shortfall of £1.8 million. He added:
“There would be a critical reduction in pro-active crime reduction, there would be a critical reduction in partnership, community and early intervention…and a critical reduction in police visibility and hence reassurance to the public.”
I look forward to Dan Rogerson, among others, voting for the budget today. The local police and crime commissioner thinks it will cause great difficulties in Cornwall.
In Gloucestershire, the police and crime commissioner—not Labour—said that
“we won’t be able to absorb the cuts the Government expects us to make next year and in subsequent years which could affect frontline services and our ability to reduce crime. If we use our reserves, which has also been suggested…we would have no money to replace…equipment or improve our infrastructure.”
The police and crime commissioner in Cumbria—again, not a Labour member—said:
“It is without question a challenging position with the financial forecasts indicating that £10.2 million of savings will have to be delivered between 2013/14 and 2016/17…in addition to the £12.1 million of savings already achieved.”
Those are police and crime commissioners, not Labour members, and they are all expressing concerns and having to raise money.