Police Funding, Crime and Community Safety

Peter Dowd (Bootle) (Lab): It is becoming increasingly apparent that we are not safe with the Tories. With underinvestment in the NHS, social care and local roads, with what is happening to the environment and the economy, and with the downward pressure on the pound, we are under threat from the Tories. We are not safe with them. Now, in our communities, there are attacks on the police, and all the Prime Minister can do is refer to the Leader of the Opposition’s tie. How pathetic is that?

The hon. Member for North West Hampshire (Kit Malthouse) talked about intelligence playing a crucial role in the police service. Of course it does, and significant amounts of that intelligence, certainly in my police force, come from neighbourhood policing, which is under the cosh. He talked about intelligence being important, but the very service that helps significantly with that at the neighbourhood level is under threat.

The hon. Member for Rossendale and Darwen (Jake Berry) talked about special constables. They do a fantastic job, but they are additional to, not instead of, the police—that is absolutely crucial.

Jake Berry: My grandfather spent 25 years patrolling the streets of Bootle as a police officer, and he would say—as I would—that we must focus on ensuring that police officers are on the streets of Bootle, not sat behind desks in police headquarters doing work that non-warranted individuals can do.

Peter Dowd: I am really pleased that the hon. Gentleman says that, because I was just coming to that very point in relation to Merseyside police. A fantastic job is being done by the police and crime commissioner, Jane Kennedy; the chief constable, John Murphy; and my local commander, Peter Costello, and all his officers, who spend as much time as they can on the streets, against the odds.

Margaret Greenwood (Wirral West) (Lab): I am sure my hon. Friend, as a fellow Merseyside MP, is aware of the fact that we lost 19% of our police officers on Merseyside between 2010 and 2015—something the grandfather of the hon. Member for Rossendale and Darwen (Jake Berry) would be very upset to hear. Workloads are soaring, and the officers who are left have to do a huge amount more with less and less. Does my hon. Friend agree that the recent Police Federation survey showing that 1,500 officers are off with stress or depression every day is an extremely worrying development and something we should all be concerned about?

Peter Dowd: I completely agree, and it surprises me that there are not even more police officers off with stress, given the pressures they are under.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham) referred to the cumulative effect of the cuts to local government and local services such as the fire service on the police’s ability to do their job. That endangers the resilience of the police service, because officers are being taken away to do things that are not their responsibility. Huge amounts of their time are taken up with mental health cases because of the stress on local authorities and the NHS, and that should not be the case.

In 2010, we had 7,300 police officers in my area; that is now down by 1,600. We are not making those figures up; the police and crime commissioner, the chief constable and the local commanders are not making them up, and they are not just taking those officers out of the system because they feel like it.

What we have with this Government is jiggery-pokery finance and jiggery-pokery figures. For years, we were told we really could not put the council tax precept up by more than 2%, but the Chancellor of the Exchequer is now almost demanding that in relation to social care, and the Home Secretary is virtually demanding it. [Interruption.] She may well laugh, but that is the reality. She and her colleagues have told us over the years that we are spending too much through tax, but they then demand, for the sake of the Chancellor’s jiggery-pokery economics, that we put the put the precept up by 2%. That amounts to a fiddle; as my right hon. Friend said, it would amount to fraud in other circumstances, and those involved would be arrested.

My local police and crime commissioner has used £2.1 million of reserves, and there are now another £3.3 million of savings to be made, with £27 million of savings to be made by 2019-20. We also have to contend with the deferred blunder in the formula, which will come back to haunt us.

At the same time, crime is up. Hate crime is up, sexual offences are up, violent crime against women is up and knife crime is up. We will have to face those increases with less and less financial and human resource, notwithstanding the fact that Merseyside police service collaborates with the fire service in a joint command and control centre. We are doing what we can, but the police service can only do so much.

The Scottish Nationalist party spokesperson, the hon. Member for Dumfries and Galloway (Richard Arkless), asked how what happens with the British Transport police, the Ministry of Defence police and the Civil Nuclear Constabulary will interplay with the effects on local forces. We need more answers.

Margaret Greenwood: I thank my hon. Friend for giving way. Does he agree that those of us who work in this building every day—

 

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