Policing (Peterborough and Cambridgeshire)

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:35 pm on 20th February 2008.

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Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire Shadow Minister (Home Affairs) 3:35 pm, 20th February 2008

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr. Gale. Mr. Jackson has done a very effective job of setting out the case for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough: the police force faces challenges associated with population growth and the pressures and costs that a more diverse community can create.

A number of other interesting issues have come out of the debate. I learned this afternoon that Cambridge has the highest number of bicycle thefts in the country, which I had not appreciated before—I am grateful to David Howarth for telling me that. He also made an effective point on the need to ensure that we have local priorities and that discretion is applied to local forces, and said that top-down targets from the centre cannot possibly reflect the needs and aspirations of local communities.

My hon. Friend Mr. Djanogly made the important point that we should not look at the matter in isolation—there are so many other interconnecting factors, such as economic and social ones, and those related to housing. A cross-cutting approach is necessary if we are to get the right solutions. We are discussing policing this afternoon, but I am well aware of how things such as education are acutely affected by the population growth in the Cambridgeshire area and some of the challenges associated with it.

My hon. Friend Mr. Vara rightly highlighted some of the frustration in rural communities where people feel that their issues are not being properly addressed, which was followed up by my hon. Friend Alistair Burt. A lot of rural communities feel and fear a sense of isolation, not only in relation to policing but other services. That message is repeated time after time, but the Government do not appear to have been listening. When I talk to people in rural areas, I find that they feel that their voice is not being heard as clearly as it should.

Some specific points have come out of the debate. Obviously, it is taking place in the context of the Government's funding settlement and the police grant, which averages 2.7 per cent. throughout the whole country. Cambridgeshire will receive a 3 per cent. increase over the period, but it is clearly a tight financial settlement. In areas such as Cambridgeshire, certain factors draw into question the effectiveness and appropriateness of the current structure. There is the issue of policing needs and the different patterns of offending in migrant populations. That does not mean that there is a higher propensity towards crime in those communities, but that there are different patterns of offending, which might be related to drink driving or the carrying of weapons. Police forces will have to modulate how they respond to those things.