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I beg to move,
That this House
has considered the funding of Merseyside Police.
It is, as ever, a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Edward. I am grateful to my hon. Friends from across Merseyside who have joined us for this Westminster Hall debate this afternoon.
I begin by paying tribute to our Merseyside police officers, police community support officers and police staff, who do a fantastic job in extremely challenging circumstances. Police officers across the country take enormous risks to keep us safe. I pay tribute to our officers for their service. In particular, I thank Andy Cooke, our Merseyside chief constable, and Jane Kennedy, our excellent police and crime commissioner, for their leadership through a tough time.
The police on Merseyside have been struggling with almost a decade of year-on-year real-terms cuts in funding. Since 2010, Merseyside police has been required to make cuts of £110 million. We have seen a cut of one third in the police grant to Merseyside, so it came as no surprise to my constituents last September when the National Audit Office confirmed that Merseyside police is the third worst hit force across England and Wales in terms of cuts in funding. As a consequence of those cuts, we have lost 1,700 staff and police officers since 2010. That translates to one in four—25%—of police officer posts gone. At the same time, Merseyside fire and rescue service has seen its budget cut in half by the Government. Liverpool City Council has faced some of the most savage funding cuts of any local authority.
The impact has been felt in every area of policing. Chief Constable Andy Cooke has warned that Merseyside police is reaching breaking point as budgets are “stretched to the limits”. Of course, the situation is not unique to Merseyside. Last year, the Home Affairs Committee issued a stark warning that policing in this country is at risk of becoming “irrelevant” amid falling staff numbers and rising crime.
The additional £8.4 million in Government grant to Merseyside police for the coming year will be consumed entirely by meeting the pension shortfall. While the additional funding is of course welcome, there is no guarantee that the pension grant will be repeated in future years. When the Minister responds, will she give an assurance that the additional funding, which is welcome, will continue beyond 2020? The settlement provides no new money from Government for the day-to-day running of our police, the cost of which increases every year with inflation, particularly wage inflation. Yet again, our PCC Jane Kennedy has had no alternative but to ask local people to pay more in council tax to keep police on our streets and in our communities.