On the 12th March the Policing Minister Nick Hurd responded to a written question from an Essex MP regarding the resolving of organised crime. Whilst the question related to the outer London Boroughs, the answer disclosed how out of touch the Home Office is with the way in which Police and Crime Commissioners work locally and also how badly police services have been impacted by the budget cuts introduced since his party won the 2010 election. It raises all sorts of questions about why such statements get made in a place where so little credibility exists:
“Through the election of Police and Crime Commissioners we have ensured that all communities, including those in outer London boroughs, have a strong voice in determining how police resources are allocated to tackle the crimes that most matter to them…We are committed to providing all police forces in England and Wales with the resources they need. The proposed funding settlement for 2019/20 enables total policing funding to increase by up to £970 million, including Council Tax precept and funding for national priorities such as counter-terrorism. This is sufficient for the police to both manage financial pressures and invest in key areas such as recruiting more detectives.”
On the following day the Spring Statement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer took place and his speech Philip Hammond included this statement “So the Prime Minister and I have decided, exceptionally, to make available immediately to police forces in England an additional £100 million over the course of the next year, ring-fenced to pay for additional overtime targeted specifically on knife crime, and for new violent crime reduction units, to deliver a wider cross-agency response to this epidemic.” and then in the questions and answer section at the end of his statement he made the following responses to two MPs
“The £100 million that we have announced today will be for the police as a whole, and my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will engage with police chiefs.”
“Well, I have just done it with £100 million today. As the hon. Lady knows, we have put £460 million into the police this year, £970 million will go in next year and an extra £100 million has been announced today”
Now to be fair, towards the end of his words in his statement there was a bit of wiggle room, but in reality as well as the £100m being a very modest sum in the overall scheme of policing funds, according to the Home Office, the Police are only actually likely to receive some of the funds allocated by the Chancellor. This set of intentions emerged during a statement made in the house of commons on the 18th March when Nick Hurd’s colleague Victoria Atkins responded to two similar questions from MPs on this subject with this answer:
“The Chancellor of the Exchequer announced on 13 March that an additional £100 million funding in 19/20 will help in the police’s immediate response to the rise in serious knife crime, enabling priority forces to immediately begin planning to put in place the additional capacity they need. The funding will also be invested in Violence Reduction Units, bringing together a range of agencies including health, education, social services and others, to develop a multi-agency approach in preventing serious violence altogether. It is important that we recognise that greater law enforcement on its own will not reduce serious violence and that we must continue to focus on prevention.
The majority of the investment will go towards supporting police forces where violent crime is impacting the most, to take immediate action to suppress the violence we are seeing, to make our streets safer. We are engaging with partners including the National Police Chiefs’ Council and the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners and we are developing the criteria by which forces will receive this funding.”
My personal view is that we do need to increase funding for a range of matters and that preventative working is vital as it will help reduce crime in various settings of which police work is only one part. However when Government states that “all communities, have a strong voice in determining how police resources are allocated to tackle the crimes that most matter to them” and yet there is no indication of this taking place, and indeed there are serious risks of asking such questions when the most serious crimes do take place far away from the awareness of many of us. When Government states “decided, exceptionally, to make available immediately to police forces in England an additional £100 million over the course of the next year” and then less than a week later that “The funding will also ….. bringing together a range of agencies including health, education, social services and others” it seems vital that we demand a level of accountability from the Government. The big question is how do we achieve it!