The House appreciates that the Minister has met the leaders of all the police forces, but it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that this National Audit Office report is an indictment of successive Conservative Home Secretaries and their handling of police financial sustainability.
Does the Minister now accept what the NAO sets out—that total funding to police forces, which is a combination of central Government funding and council tax, has fallen by 19% in real terms since 2010-11? Does the Minister accept what the NAO further sets out—that the
“main way that police forces have managed financial pressure is by reducing the size of their workforces?”
It says that the total workforce across forces fell by 18% between 2010 and March 2018. Does the Minister accept the NAO conclusion that, although crime recorded by the crime survey for England and Wales decreased by 36% between 2011 and 2018, at the same time police forces faced an upsurge in the reporting of low volume and high harm crime—the crimes that alarm the public most?
Most damning of all, the National Audit Office says it has found early indicators that the police are “struggling”—that is the NAO’s word—to deliver an effective service. Is the Minister aware of the NAO’s conclusion that the Home Office simply does not have a clear picture of what individual forces need to meet local and national demands? Why is that, and what are Ministers going to do about it? Yesterday Commissioner Cressida Dick, the head of the Met police, said that she did not want the Government to wait until the police were struggling like the Prison Service. Can the Minister give the House an assurance that that will not happen?