Police: Financial Sustainability

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:44 pm on 12th September 2018.

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Photo of Nick Hurd Nick Hurd The Minister of State, Home Department 12:44 pm, 12th September 2018

I thank the right hon. Lady for her question. The NAO does incredibly important work and the Government are very grateful to it for its work on police financial sustainability. As my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary made extremely clear to police superintendents yesterday, we absolutely understand and agree that the police are under pressure, and we are absolutely determined to support them.

I do not recognise the suggestion, however, that Ministers do not understand the pressures on the police. Last year, I spoke personally to all 43 police forces in England and Wales, including frontline officers. I also commissioned analysis to improve our understanding of police demand and resilience, and I explained our findings to the House last year, at the time of the provisional police funding settlement. We recognise the pressures on the police, including from complex crime and the threat of terrorism, and we have provided a funding settlement that is increasing total investment in the police system by more than £460 million in the current financial year. This includes £50 million of additional funding for counter-terrorism, £130 million for national priorities and £280 million in force funding from increases in precept income.

We are not stopping there. I have already indicated that we will afford the police the same precept flexibility in 2019-20 subject to their meeting productivity and efficiency asks. We are also working very closely with the police to jointly build the evidence base on police demand, resilience and capability ahead of the spending review.

The report is, then, valuable in highlighting the pressure on the police, but we do not believe that it gives adequate weight to a number of important issues: first, the strength of the local accountability structure through police and crime commissioners, which were introduced by this Government; secondly, our support to the independent inspectorate in developing force management statements—a key tool in getting better data to identify and manage future demand; thirdly, our public and regular monitoring of service effectiveness through Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary and fire and rescue services, whose independent authority we have strengthened; and fourthly, our request to the police that they reform themselves, meaning it is appropriate that the police have their own strategy, which they do, in “Police Vision 2025”.

Having said that, we of course take the report extremely seriously, and our permanent secretary has written to the NAO to accept these points. The House should be under no illusion, however: the Government remain extremely committed to ensuring that forces have the resources they need to do the extremely difficult work that they do on behalf of all of us, and which the whole House appreciates.