There have been 9 exchanges between Andrew Selous and Nick Hurd
|1||Mon 1st April 2019||
Oral Answers to Questions
|3 interactions (167 words)|
|2||Thu 13th December 2018||Police Funding Settlement||3 interactions (346 words)|
|3||Mon 3rd December 2018||
Oral Answers to Questions
|3 interactions (211 words)|
|4||Tue 6th November 2018||Police Pension Liabilities||3 interactions (639 words)|
|5||Wed 12th September 2018||Police: Financial Sustainability||3 interactions (389 words)|
|6||Mon 16th July 2018||
Oral Answers to Questions
|2 interactions (171 words)|
|7||Tue 19th December 2017||Policing||3 interactions (227 words)|
|8||Mon 13th November 2017||Police Funding: Bedfordshire||8 interactions (1,953 words)|
|9||Tue 7th November 2017||Community Policing||3 interactions (897 words)|
More money is going into policing, including in Cumbria, and more police officers are being recruited, including in Cumbria. Cumbria constabulary is rated good for efficiency, effectiveness and legitimacy, and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will join me in congratulating its hard-working officers on achieving that.
It is the first duty of a Government to keep the public safe and the Home Secretary and I could not have made it clearer that our priority going into the spending review is police funding. More money has gone into Bedfordshire police and we intend to take police funding as a priority into the next spending review.
I do not accept that last statement, because that is a grotesque exaggeration of the situation. The West Midlands police force is an extremely important police force in the system, with a proud history of innovation. Funding—public investment—in that system increased by £10 million this year. This settlement enables the police and crime commissioner to increase public investment by up to £34 million, of which £16 million will come from central Government grants. The west midlands has, I think, an above average number of police officers per head of population, compared with the national average, and broadly the national average in terms of crime recorded by police officers, but it is a stretched police force. I absolutely understand that and I see this settlement as another important milestone on the journey towards the next comprehensive spending review, which is the most important event in shaping police funding for the next few years.
I do share that concern, because I absolutely understand the economic impact on that small business trade, and I would expect the police to take that crime seriously. This is an opportunity for me to place on record again my admiration for and thanks to my hon. Friend for his tenacity in advocating for increased funding for Bedfordshire police. I hope that he is pleased about the exceptional grant that I announced a few months ago and that he will welcome a settlement that has the potential to increase funding into Bedfordshire police by up to £8 million next year.
I am not sure the hon. Lady was listening; the Government absolutely accept that there is increased pressure on the police, as demand rises and crime becomes increasingly complex. That is why we took the steps in the police funding settlement for 2018-19 that resulted in an increased investment of £5.2 million in Northumbria police, with more to come I hope in the police funding settlement.
I thank my hon. Friend for his assiduous campaigning on behalf of Bedfordshire police, and I am delighted that we were in a position to make that exceptional grant. He will know that there is a lot more to do in the funding settlement and the comprehensive spending review to come. I also entirely agree with him that we need to do more, working with our NHS partners, to help reduce the demand on the police.
It would have been nice to hear from the Labour Front-Bench spokesperson some commitments or some recognition of the need to keep our public sector pensions properly funded and long-term affordable. I am sure that other Labour MPs will want to take the opportunity to make that clear to their constituents. That was one of the most disgraceful pieces of shroud-waving that I have heard, even from Labour Members. The hon. Lady knows the reality, because I am sure that she has studied Budget 2016 in detail. In it, the Treasury made it quite clear that there were likely to be changes to the discount rate that applies to public pensions.
What has changed is the independent Office for Budget Responsibility’s projection for GDP growth, which changes the discount rate that applies. That is a change, and I fully accept—the hon. Lady has heard me say this publicly—that it has resulted in an unbudgeted cost for the police of around £165 million next year. That is a serious issue—she has heard me say that publicly as well. I set that alongside other serious issues facing the police, such as the significant shift in demand and pressure on them, which we have recognised. We are working extremely hard with the police and the Treasury to find a solution.
What I would say to the hon. Lady is that, as a result of the action that this Government have taken on the economy, we are now in much better shape to resume our investment in policing. That is why, in this year, we have taken steps that have resulted in £460 million-worth of additional public money going into our policing system—the police settlement that Labour MPs voted against. We are on track to invest more as a country in our policing than promised under Labour, so she needs to be very careful about what she says about projections in this context.
Finally, as a London MP, I take offence at the hon. Lady’s statement about complacency on serious violence. She knows, because I know how seriously she takes this job, that we are dealing with one of the most serious challenges that this society faces. We have beaten it before, 10 years ago, but we know that it is not simple. We know that it involves complex, long-term work, which is why, under this Home Secretary, our ambition has been increased so that there will be more money for policing and more powers for the police coming through in the Offensive Weapons Bill. There is almost a quarter of a billion pounds of public money being committed to critical work on prevention and early intervention to ensure that we get the right balance between robust policing and really good prevention and intervention work over time. She knows, or should know, that we cannot police our way out of this system. We are addressing a very serious challenge with the right level of ambition and partnership with the police and the police and crime commissioners.
My hon. Friend has been tireless in making the case for more funding for Bedfordshire police, and I am working hard with my colleagues at the Treasury and with officials to look again at the 2019-20 funding settlement as an opportunity to find a solution to the pensions issue. However, the path that we set this time last year has meant that almost every police force in the country is now recruiting additional officers, which is what we and the public we serve want.
The hon. Lady ignores the fact that Avon and Somerset is receiving an additional £8 million this year through the settlement that I think she voted against. I have made it clear that, for 2019-20, we expect to do something similar, and I have also made it clear that, as a ministerial team led by the Home Secretary, we are doing a great deal of work to develop the evidence base and to make the argument about the resources that the police need for the next five years. That includes Avon and Somerset, which does outstanding work on behalf of its residents, not least, as we have agreed, in terms of best practice in demand management.
I congratulate my hon. Friend on being absolutely assiduous in making representations to me about Bedfordshire policing, about which I know he cares deeply. His passion is shared by Kathryn Holloway, the police and crime commissioner, who is in regular contact with me about these matters. He knows that Bedfordshire has had another £3.2 million this year, and I am sure he knows that the force has put in applications to the special grant programme. He will also know that the long-term solution is through the CSR and the application of a fairer funding formula. He knows from the conversations that we have had that I am personally absolutely committed to this, but I undertake to work closely with him, the PCC and Bedfordshire police over the next two years as they work through the challenges that they face. I completely understand the concern that he has expressed so well on behalf of his constituents.
My hon. Friend and I have had many conversations, and I know how strongly he feels about the adequacy of policing in his constituency. He will be aware that a further £3 million has gone into Bedfordshire’s policing this year, so there is a conversation to be had about resources, but we need to ensure that the 2019-20 funding settlement and the next comprehensive spending review provide for our police forces—including Bedfordshire’s—to be properly resourced.
The universe I am living in is the real one, where public resources are tight and we have to proceed on an evidenced basis. Labour is giving the same old response: more money, more money—whoops, we ran out of money. It is the same as ever; it never changes. When Labour Members read the detail and understand how this works, they will see that we are proposing a combination of things that will result in an increase of £450 million in our investment in our policing system.
May I place on record my admiration for the tireless work that my hon. Friend has done over many years, through a cycle of many Policing Ministers, to advocate for a fairer funding settlement for Bedfordshire? I thank him for his welcome of today’s settlement, and he will note the increase in counter-terrorism policing. In the written ministerial statement, he will see information about the direction of travel of the fair funding review, which we think is most appropriately dealt with in the next spending review.
It is a great pleasure to reply to the debate, particularly given the way in which it has been framed by my hon. Friend the Member for South West Bedfordshire (Andrew Selous), who we know to be highly respected in the House for his moderation, his reasonableness, his long-standing passion for fairness and for pressing for reassurance on the resourcing of the police in Bedfordshire. I know from our private conversations that he has now reached a point of extreme frustration. He has had a number of conversations with various Ministers on this subject over many years, and he has been tireless in championing this cause, for reasons that we wholly understand.
Let me make three points in response to my hon. Friend. The first is that the Government get it: the challenges facing Bedfordshire police are well understood. I am delighted to see the chief constable, Jon Boutcher, in the Gallery tonight listening to the debate. Both he and my hon. Friend will be aware that these concerns about the funding of Bedfordshire police have been raised for some time. Indeed, the Home Office sent in a batch of officials in July 2015 in response to previous concerns that had been expressed about the stability of the police effort there.
It was largely for that reason that one of my first visits, having been made Minister for Policing, was to Bedfordshire, back in July. I met the chief constable and the police and crime commissioner, Kathryn Holloway. I also patrolled Bedford with officers. I feel that I left with a good understanding of the challenges facing the police force, which is managing a large rural area and two major towns. It is an area with considerable challenges relating to the counter-terrorism effort and to serious organised crime. It has also seen a significant increase in demand on a system that already feels stretched. The force has felt strongly for some time that it has a shortage of officers and detectives. In this debate and on previous occasions, my hon. Friend has used the good example of Leighton Buzzard as a place where the profile of policing has changed considerably over the years. That message is well received.
Secondly, I want to congratulate Bedfordshire police, and I hope that my hon. Friend will join me in that. I congratulate not only the current leadership of Kathryn Holloway and Jon Boutcher but the frontline officers and detectives who are working under considerable pressure at the moment. It is worth noting the commitment to frontline policing that has been demonstrated by that leadership. I note that there are slightly more police officers in service now than there were in 2016—there are 36 more—and that the force is actively recruiting. There is a commitment to maintaining frontline policing.
I also note that considerable savings have been made since 2011 by Bedfordshire police, as is the case in other forces as well. I can see what is happening with the force’s quality improvement programme, the estate rationalisation, and the extensive collaboration with other forces, notably Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire, all of which is to be applauded. I note that reserves are being used and that when Bedfordshire is asked to lead, whether in the context of the Eastern Region Special Operations Unit, the counter-terrorism intelligence unit or the joint protective services in the tri-force, it does so excellently and is highly respected for its leadership. All that is important to recognise, particularly given the context of considerable stretch and strain on resources.
From my conversations with Commissioner Holloway and the chief constable, I know that they both work tirelessly to challenge and improve the independent inspectorate’s judgments on efficiency and effectiveness. It is a source of controversy and challenge in Bedfordshire, but the facts are that the independent inspectorate, which has an incredibly important function in terms of driving improvement across the police system, judged Bedfordshire in its 2016 assessment as requiring improvement for efficiency and inadequate at effectiveness. Those judgments have been challenged, and the leadership is working tirelessly, as I said, to improve those ratings. However, we must recognise the challenging context and that comparable forces in what we call the most similar group—Essex and Kent—are rated good in all those categories while receiving funding per head that is equal to or lower than Bedfordshire’s. That is not a criticism; I simply want to place it on the record that there is continued room for improvement in efficiency and effectiveness. Everything that I have heard from the current leadership is that they are absolutely up for that challenge and working towards it.
My third point relates to what the Government are doing about this situation. Although actions will speak louder than words—I hope actions will soon be forthcoming—let me try to reassure my hon. Friend that we are determined to ensure that the police have the resources that they need while continuing to challenge them to be more efficient and effective. I am delighted that he recognised that it is the Government’s role on behalf of the taxpayer to continue to hold police forces’ feet to the fire and to push them to be even more efficient and effective. We are determined to ensure that they have the resources they need, which is why police funding was protected in the 2015 settlement. As proof, direct resource funding going into the police stands at over £11 billion, which is up £100 million on 2015.
I reassure my hon. Friend that I totally understand why he would say that, and it is an argument that is made by the leadership of Bedfordshire police. Comparisons are always a little awkward, but Kent does have additional counter-terrorism demands due to the presence of major ports and Essex has responsibility for Stansted, which is the fourth-busiest airport in the UK—those forces do have pressures. I do not necessarily want to labour that point; I am trying to reassure my hon. Friend. After years of pressing the police to find savings and efficiencies, to which they responded extremely impressively, the decision in 2015 was to try to protect police funding. The total amount of taxpayers’ money going into the police system money is significantly up on 2015, but—
I totally accept that point, and I think I said in my earlier remarks that we have to recognise the challenges specific to Bedfordshire police.
The “but” I was coming to, having said what I said about the decision to protect police funding, is that we recognise that the context is changing, although not necessarily dramatically. Since 2015, the state of the public finances remains very constrained, as my hon. Friend well knows. There is evidence that demand on the police is rising and changing. The police are having to spend more time on safeguarding the vulnerable and on responding to increased demand in areas of complexity, such as domestic violence, modern slavery and counter-terrorism, and as a Government we have to recognise that.
We also have to recognise that there are very real cost pressures on the police system, not least in the recent pay award. That is why, as my hon. Friend knows, since my appointment in June I have personally led a review of every single police force in England and Wales. I have spoken to or visited all 43 of them, including Bedfordshire, to make sure that, alongside the other work we are doing, the Government genuinely understand what is happening out there: the shifting demand on the police; how the police are responding to manage that demand; what their current plans are for improving efficiency and effectiveness, because that matters a great deal; and what their plans are for managing their reserves, which are considerable.
I recognise that Bedfordshire is using its reserves, and I recognise that, as a percentage of revenue, Bedfordshire’s reserves are below the national average, but across the police system something like £1.6 billion of public money is tied up in reserves. The public and the taxpayer deserve to know about those plans in a lot more detail than we have had in the past. That is part of the review process I am leading.
I have been to Bedford, been on patrol in Bedford, sat down with the police chief and have had numerous conversations with the police and crime commissioner. I assure the people of Bedfordshire that the case for its policing is well understood, as it has been for years; my hon. Friend the Member for South West Bedfordshire has been a tireless champion of this cause.
The context has changed. My hon. Friend the Member for South Suffolk reminded the House that we are still in an environment in which public finances remain constrained; we know the reality of that and so do the police chiefs. This is what we have to manage our way through. However, we are also in a situation in which the operating context has changed in a striking way in recent years. The right hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton is right that demand on the police has risen, but it has also shifted. As the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton South East mentioned, we have seen the escalation of the terrorist threat.
We have also seen a big increase in digitally enabled crime and increases in areas of high complexity, where frankly, as a society, we are now at long last turning over the stones. On modern slavery, sexual abuse and domestic violence, people are at long last coming forward, which we should welcome, but it means increased demands on police time in areas of greater complexity and required resource. As my hon. Friend the Member for Ochil and South Perthshire (Luke Graham) said, an increasing amount of police time is being spent safeguarding the vulnerable, particularly those on the mental health spectrum.
That is the reality of modern policing that we must be sensitive and tuned to in this House, and it raises some powerful questions. First, are the Government on top of emerging crime? I could take the House in painstaking detail through all the new laws on knife crime, domestic violence and modern slavery. I am proud of what we are doing to try to stay on top of emerging crime, particularly in some of the murky areas where what we find when the stone is turned is very alarming in terms of the reality of life, particularly in some of our great cities. For example, I saw yesterday the statistics on modern slavery in Manchester, and they were very powerful.
In terms of what Government can do through regulation and law, I think we are on top of emerging crime. We have to ask ourselves whether the police have the resources they need, which I will turn to, but we also have, on behalf of the taxpayer, to continue to be rigorous in pushing the police and asking, “Are you making the best use of the resources you’ve got?” That is not just about efficiency. Police have done an incredibly impressive job over years on taking out unnecessary cost, but HMIC is very clear that there is more to go for, through procurement and collaboration. There is still opportunity.
There are questions about demand management and workforce planning, but there are also tough questions about whether we are really embracing the full power of technology, which can be transformational. I have seen in Lincolnshire and Surrey, and I saw yesterday in Manchester, the power of mobile working, game-changing technology such as body-worn video and changes to operating systems that give police much better information and therefore the scope to make better decisions. Those are areas where we will continue to probe and push the police and support them in their capability-building, to stay on top of this change.
In relation to resources, which is the focus of the debate, the reality is that this year, the taxpayer will be investing just over £11 billion in our police system, through direct force funding. That is an increase of just over £100 million on 2015. The way that that money shakes down is that some of it is held at the centre for strategic investment through vehicles such as the police transformation fund, where the taxpayer invests to upgrade the capability of the police and to fund innovation. Avon and Somerset police were a recent beneficiary of that funding, I am delighted to say.
I will return to that.
We invest strategically from the centre. We have a system of 43 individual police forces. It makes sense to have a strategic investment capability to invest in things that can have an impact across the system, and we must continue to invest in innovation, not least given the context we are dealing with. The settlement at the moment is flat cash for all police forces. We recognise, as I have said publicly, that demand has grown and is changing. We are also extremely sensitive to the strain that the police are under. This is a can-do organisation that is saying, “We are very concerned about stretch and sustainability.” I have heard that directly from police commissioners and cops.