Police Grant Report

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:47 pm on 5th February 2019.

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Photo of Kevan Jones Kevan Jones Labour, North Durham 3:47 pm, 5th February 2019

I will not.

Let me turn to what the motion is actually about. Durham police’s budget will not change. In extra core funding and the contribution towards pensions, which has already been mentioned, the force will receive £2.9 million, but all that money will be used to cover pensions, which were until recently the Government’s responsibility. The precept will raise £4 million, but after taking account of inflation, pay increases and increases in fees levied by the Government, there is no extra cash at all.

Somebody referred to the precept as a magic money tree, but that is not the case for forces such as Durham, which gets 75% of its funding from core funding and 25% from the precept. Surrey, for example, receives 55% from the precept and 45% from core funding. The Home Secretary said that police and crime commissioners’ flexibility to increase costs for band D properties will generate £24 per household, but the average in Durham will be £16. Some 55% of properties in Durham are in band A, and only 9% are in band D. We have fewer than 200 band H properties, which the PCC told me raised the great sum of £68,000 last year. That puts authorities such as Durham’s at a disadvantage.

The move away from national funding to an increased reliance on the precept, putting the onus on local tax payers, is not only unfair, but will not raise the same amount of money. Whereas Surrey will benefit from a large increase, deprived communities such as Durham will not be able to raise the same amount. Chief Constable Mike Barton and Police and Crime Commissioner Ron Hogg have raised the matter with the Policing Minister, but we have seen no movement, and it needs to be addressed, particularly if this movement away from national funding for our police forces happens next year as well. As we will see in the following debate on local government funding, under this Government the trend has been to move money away from the most deprived communities to some of the most affluent areas.

We are being asked to vote for an increase in taxation, and I hope that every Conservative Member who votes for the motion will tell their local electorate that. It is not down to the PCCs to make the decision, because they frankly have no choice but to increase the precept. The Home Secretary used the word “flexibility”, but that is complete nonsense, because if PCCs do not raise the precept, they will, in most cases, have to make even deeper cuts, leading to parts of certain areas not being policed at all, which is unacceptable.

As I said, we are being asked to vote for a tax this afternoon, so I will not be supporting the motion. It is unfair regarding how core funding is being distributed under the same formula. If that continues, forces such as Durham, which is high-performing, will be hampered in their ability to deliver such performance, because of the reliance on the council tax precept. The Minister must address that if it is how we are to fund policing in this country. The consensus over many years has been that policing is a national responsibility, and that needs to continue, not be eroded, although that is what the motion will do.