Policing

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:43 pm on 19th December 2017.

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Photo of Nick Hurd Nick Hurd The Minister of State, Home Department 1:43 pm, 19th December 2017

With permission, Mr Speaker, I will make a statement on police funding.

Today, I have placed in the House the provisional police funding settlement, detailing how much money each police force in England and Wales will receive in 2018-19. This amounts to a year-on-year increase of up to £450 million across police forces for 2018-19. Taken together with the continued scope to improve police efficiency and the existence of £1.6 billion of police reserves, this represents a comprehensive settlement that makes sure that the police have the resources they need.

Before taking decisions on the settlement, I have spoken to every police force in England and Wales. I have listened to police and crime commissioners, chief constables and frontline officers, asking them to be completely upfront with me about the challenges that they face, and they were. I have been on patrol with officers on the streets of our city centres and I have visited firearms teams and projects to support the most vulnerable in society.

What is very clear to me is that demands on police forces are changing. Crimes traditionally measured by the independent Crime Survey for England and Wales have fallen by well over a third since 2010—I hope the House will welcome that—but, at the same time, it is clear that there is a shifting pattern of demand on the police. There are more victims of high harm—“hidden” crimes such as domestic abuse, modern slavery and child sexual exploitation—as well as more victims of cyber-crime coming forward. That willingness to come forward is to be welcomed, but it does put pressure on policing, to which we must be sensitive. Alongside this, terrorist attacks in London and Manchester have served as a reminder of the very real and changing threat that we face from terrorism. As a Government, we are acutely aware that the demands facing our police forces are considerable and changing. That is why this Government made the decision to protect police funding in the 2015 spending review and it is why, today, we are proposing a settlement for our police that will increase funding for police forces by a further £450 million in 2018-19.

Let me break this down. We propose that police forces get the same cash grant from the centre as in 2017-18. On top of that, we want to respond positively to requests from PCCs for more flexibility around the levels of police precept, so we propose empowering them to raise council tax contributions for local policing by £1 a month per household—£12 a year. If they all use this flexibility, that will result in a £270 million increase in the money that we invest as a society in our policing system.

Five attacks in London and Manchester darkened our spring and early summer. Thirty six people died, 10 of whom were children. The first responsibility of Government is to keep our country and its citizens safe. It is also to protect our way of life and the values that we hold dear. We are clear that we must ensure that counter-terrorism police have the resources they need to deal with the fast-changing and increasingly challenging threat from terrorism. That is why we are also increasing the counter-terrorism policing budget by £50 million in 2018-19. That will mean that the counter-terrorism policing budget will go up by 7%, to at least £757 million next year.

We are also providing an extra £130 million for national priorities such as investment in digital technology and special grants to help forces with exceptional costs. I hope that the House will agree that it is right that the Government continue to provide crucial investment in police technology to make sure that the police have the modern digital infrastructure they need to protect the public, and it is right, surely, that we increase funding for the police special grant so that we can support the police with exceptional and unexpected costs such as the responses to this year’s terrorist attacks. However, to fully meet public expectations, the police cannot simply rely on this additional investment; that is just one part of the equation. Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary and fire and rescue services is clear that there are more opportunities to increase productivity and efficiency, and so are we.

Forces have already achieved significant savings from better procurement since 2015, but there is a lot more to do. I want to see forces unlocking more than £100 million-worth of opportunities for commercial savings that we have helped them to identify. Forces must work together to increase their buying power by procuring goods together, rather than buying them in 43 different ways.

We want modern police forces to make the most of the opportunities that digital technology brings—better information and decisions, faster processes and more productive police officers. Striking research indicates that if all forces took advantage of mobile working as the best forces do, that would mean that an average officer could spend an extra hour a day on the frontline. Extrapolating from that, in theory this has the potential to free up the equivalent of 11,000 extra officers across England and Wales. The Government are committed to meeting the challenges of embracing digital technology and improving productivity, and we want policing to do the same.

The police still hold more than £1.6 billion in financial reserves, compared to £1.4 billion in 2011. The figure has gone up. Current reserves held represent 15% of annual police funding to police and crime commissioners. There are wide variations between forces with Gwent, for example, holding 42% and Northumbria holding 6%. We propose to improve transparency around reserves so that the public are clear whether they are being held for good reasons. That is why we will toughen the guidance on the information that police and crime commissioners must publish, and we will provide comparable national data on police and crime commissioner financial reserves. If the police make substantial progress on efficiency and productivity in 2018, I should signal that the Government intend to provide police and crime commissioners with a broadly similar settlement in 2019-20.

To support this process of reform, police forces will benefit from the £175 million police transformation fund in 2018-2019. Since its inception in 2016, the fund has already invested £220 million in policing projects, including £8.5 million for forces to better tackle modern slavery and £40 million to help the police to improve their response to serious and organised crime. It is clear that the fund, led by police, is delivering real results and enabling forces to invest in transformation and digitisation for the future.

I end by recognising the exceptional attitude and hard work of our brave police forces around the country. We have listened to their concerns, and we have now proposed a funding settlement that will strengthen the police’s ability to fight crime and keep us all safe. Whether it is local forces or counter-terrorism capabilities, this is a comprehensive settlement to strengthen the police now and make forces fit for the future. We will now consult on the police grant report and I look forward to hearing views from across the House. I commend this statement to the House.