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Police Grant Report | Commons debates

With the leave of the House, I will respond relatively briefly. I thank everyone who has contributed today. I am not surprised that Bedfordshire and Dorset are represented in this debate, just as they were represented in previous debates.

The hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire (Andrew Selous) is a champion of the need to address the funding formula, and he made some reasonable and sensible points. My right hon. Friend the Member for North Durham (Mr Jones) made a powerful speech about how we cannot level up without tackling crime, and about how the funding situation does not work on that front.

The hon. Member for South Dorset (Richard Drax) talked about rurality, and it is important that we tackle rural crime—I have seen a lot of that work on my trips in this brief. He also spoke of the need for police stations, and I agree with that, too. The hon. Member for West Dorset (Chris Loder) talked about there being three officers in a rural team, which does not sound like much. We all agree that the funding formula is not good enough and does not get the right results, and that we need better-funded policing.

The hon. Member for North East Bedfordshire (Richard Fuller) asked what Labour would do on funding, and I reassure him that we have committed to putting 13,000 officers and PCSOs on our streets, and that we are funding that from £350 million of identified procurement savings. At the moment, each force chooses its own uniform, cars and IT system. There are lots of savings to be made across that piece that have not been explored. The importance of local police forces having local independence is key, but police officers say to me, “That independence to do what needs to be done does not amount to what kind of car we buy. It amounts to how we respond to a protest in our local area.” So there is work to be done on that and that is what Labour would do.

This debate comes in the context of the UK being set to have the slowest growth of any G7 nation in 2023. Because of the economy, Government funding for PCCs in real terms is being cut by £136 million. We see the replacement of 20,000 officers that were cut and we are asked to be grateful for that—alongside all the cuts to PCSOs and staff.

I agree with many colleagues who have spoken today about the precept. It is unacceptable that the most deprived communities with the fewest band D properties will get the least cash through this increase; it is unacceptable that the decision to raise the precept limit is presented by the Government as “increased flexibility”, masking the truth of a council tax hike; and it is unacceptable that the Government are further burdening local taxpayers, instead of dealing with inflation and properly funding the police. We all know about the Policing Minister’s passion for low taxation during his time in the Treasury, so I am surprised that he is defending that policy.

The first job of any Government is to keep their people safe, but to make them pay more locally for that right during this economic slump looks like an abdication of duty. The Government have made a fanfare about their levelling-up agenda, but with the police funding formula consistently unfair, even according to Conservative Ministers, and a precept grant that favours PCCs from affluent areas, levelling up looks like more empty promises. This Government are not proposing common sense; they are making people pay for the Government’s economic mismanagement.

This country is suffering after 13 years of Conservative Governments. The disastrous mini-Budget, so vocally defended by the Policing Minister, has left our economy in ruins. Inflation is running at 10.5%. Ours is the only major economy forecast to shrink this year. Public services are on their knees and around the country people are struggling to make ends meet. This Conservative Government are failing to deliver justice to victims, to rebuild neighbourhood policing and to support the police.

Therefore, I must ask the Minister: when will the re-announced review of the funding formula be published? Will he update us on progress being made on the emergency services network and on the £5.1 billion overspend, to date, on that project? Is he proud of increasing the burden on local tax payers, instead of getting a grip on the economy? We will not vote against this grant, but we must stress that these plans discriminate against struggling households. We need an active Home Office that tackles crime, puts victims first and looks after our police officers but sets national standards on conduct. Labour will be that active Home Office. We will rebuild neighbourhood policing, punish criminals, prevent crime and protect communities. I ask the Government to think again about how they fund our policing, so that the victims of crime up and down our country get the service they deserve.