Police Grant Report

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:59 pm on 5th February 2019.

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Photo of Jonathan Edwards Jonathan Edwards Shadow PC Spokesperson (Treasury), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Foreign Intervention), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) 3:59 pm, 5th February 2019

Unlike Scotland or Northern Ireland, Wales is subject to having its policing policy set by Westminster, in the capital city of another country, far away from where the police forces are carrying out their duties. Our underpowered Welsh Parliament has been consistently denied the powers necessary to deliver the policing our communities need. As a result of having had our hands tied by the Home Office, Wales has lost more than 500 police officers since 2010. That is an incredible statistic. We have not only lost police officers; in Dyfed Powys, we lost our dedicated police helicopter to a pooled England and Wales service. The performance of the new centralised service, as far as the communities I serve are concerned, is woeful.

If Welsh policing were funded on the basis of population, as is the case with other devolved services, police forces in Wales would be better off by £25 million per year. Instead, we are tied to England and Wales funding criteria that penalise our police forces in Wales. I say this as a constant critic of the Barnett formula. If Barnett were reformed on the basis of need, or even if the funding settlement between Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland were equalised upwards, the windfall for Wales would be even greater.

There is little excuse for keeping these powers in Westminster, given that the British Government are actively considering devolving swathes of the criminal justice system to English cities such as Manchester. In Wales, not only do we have to suffer the humiliation of being treated as a second-class nation by Westminster, but we are not even given the same status and respect as English cities. Rather than being in control of our own destiny in Wales, we face a situation whereby the British Government make PCCs the scapegoats and abdicate their duty to properly fund policing, instead relying on PCCs to raise the local tax precept, with 63% of the increase in funding for local police coming from an increase in local taxation. This is Westminster creative accounting at its best. As many colleagues have said today, this local taxation is extremely regressive.

The British Government boast about increasing the personal allowance and freezing income tax rises, but these things are largely eroded by the increased council tax bills. PCCs are given the stark choice between either increasing the precept or cutting services. Police forces are given no certainty about when the comprehensive spending review and review of the funding formula will conclude—whether it will be in 2019-20 or 2020-21—further hindering their ability to plan.

Rural Welsh forces are uniquely handicapped by the gearing—the proportion of total funding that comes from the police grant and local taxation. Welsh forces have an approximately even split of Home Office and local government funding, with local taxpayers in rural Wales contributing considerably more to policing than local taxpayers in English cities. For example, Northumbria police receive 81% of their funding from the Home Office, whereas the figure for North Wales police is 47.5%. Due to the lack of devolution, and the England and Wales funding framework, the people of my country are being asked to disproportionally pay far more for their policing than other parts of the British state. Once again, the British Government are placing the burden on rural Wales to pay for urban England; this is truly a partnership of unequals. As public awareness rises in Wales, the position of the Unionist parties will become untenable, as they are once again putting their own narrow ideological British nationalist dogma before the interests of their constituents.

I would be grateful if the Minister answered a few questions in his wind-up. First, will he confirm when the comprehensive spending review and funding formula will be finalised? If that is to be in 2020-21 rather than in 2019-20, as is looking likely, will he give an assurance that his Department will allow the same flexibility with the grant uplift next year as this year, and give PCCs the flexibility to increase the precept once again? Finally, when his Government do finally agree the comprehensive spending review and the funding formula, what is he going to do to ensure that Welsh taxpayers are treated fairly?