Part of Science, Technology and Engineering (Careers Information in Schools) – in the House of Commons at 3:59 pm on 13th February 2013.

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Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department 3:59 pm, 13th February 2013

I thank all right hon. and hon. Members for participating in what has been a lively debate on the police funding settlement. I recognise a number of the points about reductions in funding, but we are confident that they are manageable. The police are making the necessary savings and have transformed how they deliver the service to the public. That has been achieved along with reductions in overall crime.

We inherited the toughest fiscal challenge in living memory and are having to take tough decisions, but I recognise, as do the Government, that the police do an incredibly important and challenging job. Our reforms recognise and build on that. As right hon. and hon. Members have highlighted, this year again we have seen many examples of professional, selfless and brave front-line policing to keep the public safe and to fight crime. As Yasmin Qureshi highlighted, our thoughts are particularly with the families, friends and colleagues of Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes.

I would also like to recognise the work of the late Paul McKeever, with whom I had the pleasure of having a number of meetings and exchanges. He would have said—and I would agree—that we have the best police force in the world, and I pay tribute to the work they do, day in, day out, to keep us all safe. I also pay tribute to the work of our chief constables and senior officers in achieving savings, driving efficiencies and cutting crime.

Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary has challenged forces to drive through efficiencies and has shown that about half of the savings required nationally can be achieved just by forces raising their performance to the average of their immediate peers. There are other areas, however, where the police can make, and are making, further savings, without affecting the level of service to the public—for instance, by adopting an increasingly national approach to buying equipment and services. My hon. Friend Dr Huppert made the point about how efficiencies can be secured through such routes.

Forces are rightly prioritising front-line delivery. The number of officers working in back-office roles fell by 20.3% between March 2010 and March 2012, and we are encouraging forces to consider options for reforming support services, including collaboration. HMIC has stated that forces have plans to deliver 87% of the required savings by March 2015, indicating that police forces are working well towards the savings that need to be made. Its report also stated that the proportion of officers in front-line roles is due to increase to 89% in March 2015. Furthermore, its report found that, as well as crime going down, victim satisfaction was up and response times to emergencies had largely been maintained.

We have also made changes to how the police procure their goods and services. We estimate that the police can save up to £200 million per year by 2014-15 on commonly purchased police goods and non-IT services. We have continued our reform of the police. PCCs have now been introduced and are holding the police to account, while ensuring that the public have a say in how policing is delivered in their community. As we have heard, the College of Policing has also been introduced and the package of measures announced by the Home Secretary yesterday will further enhance the integrity of the police.

A number of important points have been made today, particularly by my hon. Friend Mr Ruffley, to whom I pay tribute for the work he did in opposition. He continues to highlight the need to focus on freeing up police time. The Government are clear that the police should be focusing on fighting crime, not paperwork. The work we have done to reduce bureaucracy could result in up to 4.5 million hours of police time saved across all forces every year—the equivalent of more than 2,100 officers back on the beat.