We are in regular discussion with police forces and the National Ballistics Intelligence Service to monitor gun crime levels. The ONS statistics show that firearms offences are 34% lower than they were a decade ago, though there has been an increase nationally in recent years. The opposite has been the case in Merseyside in recent years, with firearms offences falling. However, we know incidents where a firearm has been discharged have increased over the last year in Merseyside.
We continue to work closely with law enforcement partners to ensure that we have the right intelligence, detection and enforcement capabilities internationally, at the UK border and within the UK. For example, firearms controls have been strengthened through the Policing and Crime Act 2017 and a multi-agency firearms unit has been established. On 5th September this unit was awarded £2.4m of Police Transformation Funding. We are also introducing statutory guidance for the police on firearms licensing to ensure that the robust processes in place for assessing an individual’s suitability to own a gun are applied consistently. Last year we initiated a new firearms science and technology programme, committing £2m over two years, to the development of automatic threat detection technology.
The 2015 Spending Review protected police funding in real terms, assuming Police and Crime Commissioners maximise precept. Since then, police forces have received broadly flat cash direct resource funding and we are increasing investment in transformation and improved communications and technology capabilities. As a result, Merseyside police force received £500,000 more in 2017/18 compared with 2015/16. However, the Government recognises that the police have faced significant challenges this year. We have, therefore, set in hand a programme of engagement to understand better the demands they face, and how these can best be managed. As part of this, the Minister for Policing and Fire Minister will be visiting a number of forces, including Merseyside, over the next few months.