Police Grant Report

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:12 pm on 5th February 2019.

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Photo of Matt Warman Matt Warman Conservative, Boston and Skegness 3:12 pm, 5th February 2019

I begin by paying tribute to Marc Jones, Lincolnshire’s fantastic police and crime commissioner, Chief Constable Bill Skelly and the many officers who work so very hard to keep all my constituents safe. I do that because, as the Minister well knows from hearing my Lincolnshire colleagues talk at great length, Lincolnshire is and has long been the worst-funded constabulary per head in the country. We get about £157 per capita. In comparison, Merseyside and North Wales get about £220 per capita. The police funding formula, which I think all Members have mentioned or will mention, is at the root of a fundamental problem for Lincolnshire’s police force.

With that in mind, I welcome the funding settlement because it does address some of the most pressing concerns we face. It lays the groundwork for a long-term solution that I hope will allow Lincolnshire police to address the challenges that come with being a large rural county with an incredibly sparse population, as well as genuine deprivation. Some of the worst deprivation in the country is in my constituency and to the north of it in our coastal communities in the constituency of my hon. Friend Victoria Atkins. We have real challenges that need to be addressed and the funding settlement will do that. The £3.3 million extra for a police force that does not have significant reserves on which it can draw will make a real difference, and we should welcome it. It is an absurd position for anyone to take that they will not vote for more money because they want even more money, leaving them with less money. Playing politics with this issue does not help our officers on the street.

What will Marc Jones do with the additional money? Following on from the results of a survey he conducted with local residents, he will expand the use of drones to across the whole county. This service has already caught alleged rapists and sexually violent offenders. It makes a huge difference and uses technology in a uniquely efficient way. He will expand neighbourhood policing so it is more visible and more focused on the vulnerable. He will also invest in a new fleet of vehicles, which will again make a real difference. The police force has already invested in improved call handling to enable the somewhat maligned 101 service to work better. It has a new way to deal with firearms licensing, so we are able to provide better value for money for taxpayers. It has a very productive relationship with G4S, delivering very good value for taxpayers on custody suites, freeing up officers to do what they must do most: fight crime and protect our constituents from the effects of crime.

I have to be honest with the Minister, who has been incredibly helpful to me personally on this difficult issue, and say that it is with mixed feelings that I vote for the settlement. I know it does the right thing today and it will do the right thing in years to come, but it does not solve the fundamental issue that the funding formula imposes on a constituency such as mine. It does not go anywhere near addressing the historical underfunding of police forces such as Lincolnshire. The figure of £157 per head compared with £220 in Merseyside and Wales is an indictment of previous systems.

Of course I accept the fact—the Opposition might not like it—that we are still living with the consequences of the financial crash. We have to ensure that we live within our means for this police funding settlement. However, we surely must ensure, for my constituents as well as for people up and down the country, that in future we do all we can to deliver a fair funding settlement. My constituents see rising crime and a diversification of crime, whether modern slavery or newer kinds of crime, in particular cyber-crime.

I sincerely find it inexplicable that Members would not vote for more money because they want even more money. [Interruption.] It is indisputably an increase for Lincolnshire. [Interruption.] Lincolnshire police will be getting £3.3 million more than they would otherwise be getting. That is more money. If Louise Haigh wants to vote against the settlement, she is welcome to do so, but it is still more money. She will be voting against an increase in funding for the police. I would defend, to a certain extent, raising council tax locally. As others have said, however, that is not a sustainable way forward. I hope the Minister will accept that many of us are voting for it because in future we want to see root-and-branch improvement across police funding. That is what we need, even though today’s settlement is to be welcomed.