Police Grant Report

Nick opens and closes a debate on Police Funding

The Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice (Nick Herbert): I beg to move,

That the Police Grant Report (England and Wales) for 2011-12 (House of Commons Paper No. 771), which was laid before this House on 31 January, be approved.

As well as seeking the House's approval for the grant, I want to explain why this settlement for the police is necessary, challenging but manageable, and how the Government are helping the service to meet the challenge.

On 13 December, I laid before the House the Government's proposed allocations of grants to police authorities in England and Wales. Following that, the Government held a six-week consultation on the proposed allocation of funding, during which 34 representations were received from across 20 force areas. I would like to thank hon. Members, members of police forces, police authorities and other policing organisations across the country for taking the time to share their views on the provisional settlement. Their comments have been considered carefully and fully.

Having inherited the largest peacetime deficit in Britain's history, the Government had no option but to reduce public spending, and a police service that spends more than £13 billion a year cannot be exempt from a requirement to save public money. The October spending review set the overall cut in funding at 20% in real terms over four years, and it set the profile of the reduction. I accept that the settlement is challenging, but the Government believe that it is manageable, and that if savings are made in the right areas the service to the public can be maintained and, indeed, improved.

Stephen Twigg (Liverpool, West Derby) (Lab/Co-op): The Minister says that the settlement is challenging. Does he accept that it is more challenging for some forces than for others, and that a force in Merseyside depends far more on central Government grant than a force in Surrey, which raises half its funds locally? Will he consider, for the purpose of future years, looking again at an issue that is causing great concern in my constituency?

Nick Herbert: I absolutely understand the hon. Gentleman's observation that different forces raise different amounts from local taxpayers, and I shall deal with it shortly. I remain open-minded about the issue, given that the report relates to allocations for the next two years.

Robert Halfon (Harlow) (Con): Is my right hon. Friend aware that over the past few years Essex police have made efficiency savings of 25%? Helicopter, payroll and legal services are now being shared, but Harlow police station remains open 24 hours a day, and our front-line services have been protected.

Nick Herbert: I welcome my hon. Friend's comments. There are examples throughout the country-and I intend to provide some-of police forces that are making significant efficiency savings, and working in a smarter way that improves the service to the public even when funds have been reduced. It is clearly possible to achieve that.

It has been said that the profile of the cuts is front-loaded so that forces must find the biggest savings at an early stage. The profile reflects the need to make early progress on reducing the deficit, and it is set, but we must view the grant reductions in context. The biggest cut does not fall in the first year. The average cash reduction in grant is 4% in the first year, 5% in the second, 2% in the third, and 1% in the fourth.

It is also important to remember that a 20% reduction in Government funding in real terms does not mean a 20% reduction in force spending power. Forces do not receive all their funding from central Government; on average they receive about a quarter of it from the council tax component of precept, which is determined locally. If police authorities and, thereafter, elected police and crime commissioners choose to increase precept at the level forecast by the Office for Budget Responsibility, the settlement represents a 14% real-terms reduction in overall funding over four years. Of course I recognise that the local contribution to police spending varies considerably between forces, and I shall deal with that aspect shortly.

Helen Jones (Warrington North) (Lab): Why does the Minister think that a force such as that in Cheshire should lose 200 front-line police officers while the Government are spending money on an unnecessary switch to political police commissioners? My constituents would much prefer that money to be spent on putting officers on the beat.

Nick Herbert: I have explained this to the House before, but I am happy to do so again for the benefit of the hon. Lady. If she looks at the allocations that we have made, she will see that the additional cost of holding an election for police and crime commissioners will not come from force budgets, but has been provided separately by the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

The argument that, because a cost is involved in the holding of an election, that election should not take place is a very foolish one, and a particularly odd one for an elected Member of Parliament to advance. When the Labour party proposed five different referendums in its manifesto, I did not notice its advancing the argument that a cost would be involved. I should also point out that it is now Labour's policy for police authority chairs to be directly elected, and that the cost of holding those elections would arise every four years. Perhaps the hon. Lady should remonstrate with those on her party's Front Bench if she considers that that is not money well spent. There is now agreement on both sides that there should be direct elections, and a cost is involved in that policy. If the Opposition did not believe that a cost was involved, they should not have advanced the policy and voted for it, as they did in Committee just a few weeks ago.

Let me return to the real effect of the funding reductions on forces. Humberside's force raises the average 25% of its revenue through precept. If we assume that it chooses to adopt the freeze in council tax next year, its total funding will then fall by £5.5 million, or 2.9% of its total income of some £190 million. That is challenging, but it is not unmanageable. As Opposition Members have pointed out, the reductions in years three and four will be smaller.

Some forces, and some Members, have argued that the amount that each force raises in precept should be taken into account in the determination of funding reductions. I understand their argument, because forces that raise very little from precept will face a larger cut than those that raise a great deal. After careful consideration, however, I decided that there would be a number of objections to such an adjustment. First, it would be said that we were penalising council tax payers in other areas who already pay far more for their policing services, and who have experienced a big increase in council tax in previous years. That would certainly be unfair. Secondly, by subsidising forces in that way-including large forces with greater capacity-we would be asking others to take a larger cut in central grant than 20%, and that too would have been regarded as unfair. The fair solution, and the one that was expected by forces and authorities, was to treat all forces the same by making equal cuts in grant.

Hazel Blears (Salford and Eccles) (Lab): The Minister appears to have borrowed that very doubtful concept of spending power from his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, and I am afraid that it is no more reputable in his hands than it was in those of his right hon. Friend. The truth is that there will be a 20% cut in grant, and the truth is that Her Majesty's inspectorate of constabulary has said that a cut of more than 12% will affect police availability. Why does the Minister disagree with HMIC-which has said that a cut of 12% is possible, but that anything beyond that will cut into the front line-and with the chief constable of Greater Manchester, who has said that there will be an effect on front-line policing?

Nick Herbert: There are two answers to that. First, forces on average receive a quarter of their funding from local taxpayers, so it does not make sense to consider only the amount that they receive from central Government. What matters to a force is its total spending power, and it is hardly disreputable to take that into account. Secondly, although I do not disagree with the conclusions of the important report of the inspectorate of constabulary-with which I will deal shortly-I think it possible, as I will explain, to make savings that were beyond the remit of its report.

I am pleased that Opposition Members apparently agree with the policy of the inspectorate of constabulary that forces can save more than £1 billion a year without affecting the front line and while protecting visibility, because that is very important.

Stephen Twigg: I understand the Minister's explanation, which, in a sense, constitutes a fuller response to my earlier point, but may I urge him to reconsider in future years? The main reason for the contrast between the sources of funding for forces in, say, Merseyside and Surrey is the fact that Merseyside has a higher level of social and economic deprivation. In recent years, council tax payers in my constituency have paid more for the police and have not experienced a freeze, but in practice they will experience a much bigger cut than those in Surrey.

Nick Herbert: I said to the hon. Gentleman earlier that we must remain open-minded about the impact in future years, and we will. I think that this is the fairest approach, and it is the approach that I am taking in relation to the cut in central Government funding. Most of the funding that a force receives through the grant will result from the application of a formula that recognises local need. I know that this raises issues, but ultimately I decided that the right approach to the cut in central Government funding was to treat each force fairly. That is why I decided to apply damping at the level of the average cut.

Mr Brian Binley (Northampton South) (Con): May I remind the Minister that Northamptonshire police's grant funding will decrease by 5.1% next year, when it should have decreased by only 0.9%? That is due to the damping formula, under which Northamptonshire police will lose £3.4 million in 2011-12 and a further £3.7 million in 2012-13. They are subsidising forces throughout the country. Will the Minister promise to look at this matter for next year's grant?

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): May we have shorter inventions too, please? Will the hon. Gentleman give me that promise for the future?

Nick Herbert: I have met my hon. Friend and his local chief constable. He knows that I consider this matter very carefully, and he made his points very well on behalf of his constituents. I will discuss damping in a moment, but my hon. Friend's comments reflect the fact that there will always be differences of view in this House between Members whose police forces benefit from damping and who therefore do not wish to see any change in its application, and Members whose forces have, effectively, paid out under damping and who desperately wish there to be a change. It is therefore not possible for the Government to satisfy everybody. We have had to take decisions in the round, and in accordance with what we consider to be the best and fairest way to address the totality of policing in this country.

As I have said, I decided to apply damping at the level of the average cut. As a result, each force will face an equal percentage reduction in core Government funding in 2011-12 and 2012-13, thereby ensuring that no one force will face an unacceptably large reduction in its budget. This mirrors the approach we took in the in-year savings following the emergency Budget and, importantly, it is what police forces were expecting and planning upon.

I appreciate that different forces have different views on this decision, as do hon. Members, and I understand why forces such as the West Midlands and Dorset-and, indeed, Northamptonshire-are keen to see damping phased out or removed entirely, while others such as Cumbria and Cheshire welcome its retention. As I have said, in making decisions such as these I must, of course, think about policing as a whole. I also appreciate the wider case against damping, and there is a strong argument for moving at the right time to a full application of the formula, recognising the policing needs of each area, but doing so now would have created real difficulty. I should also point out that the vast majority of funding that forces receive is allocated according to the formula. Therefore, force level allocations will remain as I announced in December.

Historically, there have been a number of ring-fenced grants to police forces. The Government's general approach has been to remove ring-fencing and to roll funding into the main grant so that forces have greater local flexibility in determining how resources are spent. That has been the case for the rural policing fund. From 2006-07, it had already been amalgamated with four other specific grants to create what is known as rule 2 grant, but we are now rolling that into the police main grant. I want to emphasise, especially to Members representing rural constituencies, that as result of my decision on damping levels the decision on rolling this grant into the main grant means that no force will be worse off.

In some instances, I believe the case for ring-fencing grants remains strong. Outside London, the neighbourhood policing fund will be ring-fenced for the next two years to ensure the continuing funding of police community support officers, who play a valuable role in community policing. When police and crime commissioners are introduced, it will be up to them to make decisions over funding. In London, where the Mayor can already exercise this local determination, the ring fence is being lifted now, but the fund is being maintained at £340 million next year and £338 million the following year. When some Members make their allegations about cuts in front-line policing, they might like to note that that ring-fenced fund has been maintained.

The counter-terrorism specific grant has been relatively protected with a 10% cut in real terms over four years. This is a cut of just 1% in cash terms, and must be seen against a very rapid increase in resource and capital spending-some 49% in the last four years. The Government and the police service are confident that there will be no reduction in police effectiveness in this crucial area, where savings can be made but where well over £500 million will continue to be spent each year.

Keith Vaz (Leicester East) (Lab): The Minister has rightly put the emphasis on the local areas, because it is their budget in the end. Does he not agree, however, that there is a responsibility on the Home Office to show leadership in respect of local forces? That is especially the case for procurement; the Home Office should encourage local forces to collaborate and pool resources in order to procure.

Nick Herbert: I strongly agree with the right hon. Gentleman, who chairs the Select Committee on Home Affairs, and I will address that issue later, as I intend to set out the savings that I believe can be made. The Home Office has a role to play in driving that, and in asking for the leadership of forces to share services and collaborate so that we can realise the considerable savings that are possible in procurement.

I was talking about funding to ensure national security. Similarly, funding for Olympic security has been prioritised. Up to £600 million will remain available if required for the safety and security programme, as originally pledged, although we expect that that should be delivered for rather less, at £475 million.

Steve McCabe (Birmingham, Selly Oak) (Lab): If it transpires that the Minister can pay for Olympic security at the lower figure as he hopes, what will he do with the extra money? Will it be reinvested to make up for some of the police cuts?

Nick Herbert: Well, I think it is important that up until the Olympics the pledged sum remains in place in order to ensure security. Such decisions can be taken afterwards.

The Metropolitan police will continue to receive a national, international and capital city grant, recognising the unique duties they perform. It will be worth £200 million next year, although it will be reduced in subsequent years on the same basis as the police main grant.

The Government's absolute priority is to ensure that the England and Wales police service retains and enhances its ability to protect and serve the public. Understandably, there has been much focus on the impact of the settlement on police numbers. Given the need to reduce public spending, we cannot guarantee the number of police and staff, which had reached record levels-almost 250,000 people-and neither, of course, could the previous Government.

Yasmin Qureshi (Bolton South East) (Lab): The Minister says that the number of police officers will be reduced. Recently, he is supposed to have said that there is no link between the commission of crime and the number of police. Does he still stand by that statement?

Nick Herbert: I did not say that; I said there was no simple link, and there is not.

All parties agree with Her Majesty's inspectorate of constabulary that police forces can make savings of over £1 billion a year while maintaining police availability. However, that will mean smaller police work forces in order to support the £1 billion a year of savings HMIC says can be made, which I do not think the Opposition have understood. That is why I regard it as so unacceptable that the Opposition should campaign on the issue of police numbers when they are committed to cutting spending by over £1 billion a year, which will lead to a reduction in police numbers.

The challenge for the service is to improve efficiency, drive out waste and increase productivity so that front-line policing is prioritised and the service to the public is maintained or improved.

Philip Davies (Shipley) (Con): I agree that the police can save money, and they might start to do so by addressing some of the equality and diversity politically correct drivel on which they waste millions of pounds each year. If the Government were simply cutting the police budget and savings could be found, that would be fine. However, the problem with the Government's argument is that they are doing this against the backdrop of restricting the police's ability to use the DNA database to catch criminals and trying to restrict further the use of CCTV cameras which also help the police catch criminals, and they are releasing people from prison and having fewer criminals in prison. They cannot do all those things with fewer police.

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): As I have already said, we must have much shorter interventions.

Nick Herbert: I always know it is a mistake to take interventions from my hon. Friend, but no doubt it is a mistake I will continue to make. I enjoy his interventions, but I note that, although it seemed to me that Opposition Front-Bench Members were giving lots of nods to what he said, they have still not understood the importance of ensuring a proper balance between security and liberty in this country. In spite of everything the new leader of their party has said, they have still not understood that.

There are also areas beyond the HMIC's report-this comes directly to the point made by the right hon. Member for Salford and Eccles (Hazel Blears)-where savings can be made by forces working together. There are 2,000 different IT systems across the 43 police forces, and some 5,000 staff. We estimate that savings of some £330 million could be found through joint procurement of goods, services and IT. The vast bulk of these savings -around a third of a billion pounds or more-will be additional to the savings identified by HMIC.

The time for just talking about IT convergence, collective procurement, collaboration, sharing and outsourcing services is over. We cannot afford not to do these things, and we cannot afford to delay, so, where necessary, the Government will mandate the changes required. That is why I am about to lay regulations before Parliament to require the police service to buy certain IT vehicles, and so on, through specified national framework arrangements.

Keith Vaz: I am most grateful to the Minister for giving way a second time. I welcome very much what he has just said. This issue has been the subject of much discussion in the Home Affairs Select Committee, driven by its former member, the hon. Member for Cannock Chase (Mr Burley). There is a need for central procurement: a list, a book, a catalogue-not quite like Argos, but something that can be used as a template for various police forces to choose from.

Nick Herbert: I am grateful for the right hon. Gentleman's support and I hope this approach will command support across the whole House, because it does make sense for the 43 forces to procure together where that will make savings; and the savings are quite considerable.

Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington) (LD): Pursuing that point, if there is some rationalisation among the 2,000 IT systems, would that not also lead to significantly more effective policing and a reduced risk, for instance, of systems being out of synch and data getting lost between different systems?

Nick Herbert: I agree with my hon. Friend that making these efficiencies and improvements in business processes is about not just saving money, but improving the quality of the service. Those two things are not incompatible, and it is time we stopped talking as though they were.

Robert Halfon: Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Nick Herbert: I want to make a little more progress, if my hon. Friend will forgive me.

The inspectorate's report focuses on reducing police force costs to average levels, but why should forces not be able to go further by matching the performance of the best, rather than merely the average? If forces improve productivity and adjust to the level of spend typical of the more efficient forces, that could add another £350 million to the savings calculated in HMIC's report.

Pay, too, was outside the scope of the report. It accounts for the bulk of total police spending-some £11 billion last year. Any organisation in which the majority of the cost is pay, and which is facing tough times, has to look at its pay bill. The Government have announced a policy for a two-year pay freeze across the public sector. Subject to any recommendations from the police negotiating board and agreement on staff pay, this might save some £350 million. We have asked Tom Winsor to review the remuneration and conditions of service of police officers and staff. The Government have asked the review to make recommendations that are fair to, and reasonable for, both the taxpayer and police officers and staff. I want to emphasise the importance of fairness to police officers, who cannot strike and who often do a difficult and dangerous job on the public's behalf. Tom Winsor's first report is due to be published in February, with the second part due in June. Taken together, we believe there are potential savings of some £2.2 billion a year by 2014-15, which is greater than the real reduction in central grant.

These changes require a fundamental redesign of policing, with far greater collaboration, shared services and the potential use of outsourcing. However, this does not mean a worse service to the public. Savings must be driven in the back and middle-offices of police forces-areas where functions are important, even if invisible to the public, but could be done more efficiently. These functions have grown disproportionately as the money rolled in and bureaucracy predominated. As Peter Fahy, chief constable of Greater Manchester police, told the Home Affairs Select Committee earlier this month,

"some of our headquarters operations had got too big."

Mark Tami (Alyn and Deeside) (Lab): Does the Minister not accept that there is a danger that if forces cut back such staff-for instance, North Wales police is cutting one in four back-room staff-all that happens is that front-line officers have to be pulled off the beat to do that job?

Nick Herbert: No, I do not accept that at all. The challenge is to ensure that those functions are done more efficiently; it is not simply a question of handing the function to someone else. No one is saying that back and middle-office functions can or should be abolished, but they can become much leaner.

Furthermore, protecting the front-line service does not mean setting it in aspic. Productivity at the front line can be improved, too, so that resources are better deployed in order to maintain or improve the service to the public. For example, West Yorkshire police have significantly reduced the time taken to investigate a crime. Improving the standard of initial investigation, they reduced the average time taken to investigate low-level crime by 85%. Wiltshire police have significantly reduced the time neighbourhood and response officers spend in custody centres, and off the streets, from an average of 27 minutes to an average of 10 minutes. That is worth 3,000 extra hours of street policing.

In Brighton, Sussex police have put in place a dedicated team for secondary investigations, reducing the amount of paperwork that response officers have to complete and allowing them to return quickly to the streets after answering a call. This saved nearly £1 million, improved response times and sped up the time it takes to complete an investigation.

Surrey police have changed their arrangements in order to co-locate some officers in council buildings, rather than their remaining in little-used police buildings, thereby saving money. That has helped to fund the recruitment of additional constables.

Hazel Blears: The Minister will be aware that the area-based grants that many deprived local authorities have received to date have been used, as with my own council in Salford, to tackle antisocial behaviour in exactly that way-by having co-located teams dealing with the same families. That area-based grant has now been completely abolished-by his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. If there is any thought of joined-up government, clearly, this is not it.

Nick Herbert: I simply do not accept the right hon. Lady's contention that it is somehow not possible for services to work together because they are receiving less money; that is a strong incentive for them to work together and to save resources.

Robert Halfon: I thank my right hon. Friend for giving way to me for a second time. Given what I said earlier about Essex police collaborating successfully with police forces in the south-east, such as Kent, on payroll services and on procuring helicopters and other vehicles, and given what he said about passing regulation for those who do not collaborate, will he look favourably on forces that are collaborating in future funding formulas?

Nick Herbert: Of course we will continue to look at all these issues, and I welcome the collaboration that has taken place in my hon. Friend's force. HMIC was clear that collaboration has to proceed at a faster pace, and we will look at all the potential incentives to ensure that that is the case.

Mr David Ruffley (Bury St Edmunds) (Con): My right hon. Friend said something terribly important about mandating collaboration, which I have long argued for, particularly through the Policing and Crime Bill in 2009. He talked about collaboration in the context of procurement. What about mandated collaboration in the context of protective services?

Nick Herbert: There is strong potential for forces to collaborate on protective services, and again, we want to see such things happen. We have ensured in the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill, which is currently in Committee, that strong duties will be placed on police and crime commissioners to collaborate. It is very important that forces do that. Indeed, in a speech I gave a couple of weeks ago, I said that the age of police fiefdoms is over. There is a need for police forces to work together more effectively. The Government do not believe in forced mergers of police forces, but we cannot have 43 forces doing things all on their own when there are great savings and efficiencies to be made in exactly the sort of area that my hon. Friend represents by working together.

Henry Smith (Crawley) (Con): I am glad that the Minister mentioned some of the collaboration taking place between the Sussex and Surrey forces, and the better working with local authorities, which relates to an earlier point. He will know that from 1 April West Sussex is to have one division, which is a way for police administration to be more efficient, and it also leads to better front-line services.

Nick Herbert: I strongly agree with my hon. Friend. I also gave the example of Surrey, where co-location has proved possible despite the funding reductions that have taken place. It shows that with innovation it is possible to think afresh about how these services are delivered to the public.

The key to the changes that I have outlined is service improvement from the same or less resource. As Derbyshire's chief constable said last month:

"People won't really see much difference in terms of neighbourhood policing, emergency response and uniformed patrols-we'll still have a huge amount of people in the front line."

We must also tackle the bureaucracy, which has tied up police time. It is no use focusing only on police numbers if too much police time is spent on inefficient or unnecessary tasks. Every hour of police time we save by cutting red tape is an hour's more potential time spent on front-line duties. Scrapping the stop form and reducing the stop and search form, which officers have to complete, could save up to 800,000 hours of officer time.

I recognise the challenge facing policing. I also appreciate that many in the police work force are worried about their remuneration and indeed their jobs. I certainly do not belittle that concern, but my first priority must be to ensure that the best service is provided to the public within the financial constraints that we all face. Every chief constable I have met has impressed upon me his or her determination to do everything possible to protect front-line services while dealing with the reduction in funding. The Government are determined to work with the police service to ensure that that is the case.


Nick Herbert: With the leave of the House, I shall respond briefly to the points that hon. Members have made. First, I have listened to the points made by the hon. Members for Liverpool, Wavertree (Luciana Berger) and for Liverpool, West Derby (Stephen Twigg) and I understand the implications for forces that raise less money from local council tax payers. I have explained why the decision we took was fair, I have said that we will continue to discuss these issues and the impacts on forces, and I am happy to have a meeting.

I always pay attention to the views of the right hon. Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz), who chairs the Select Committee on Home Affairs. I believe we have set out in clear terms how the police landscape must change, but his remarks will no doubt move me to make a further speech on the issue, a copy of which I will of course send to him, to clarify the position. I draw his and the House's attention to the speech I gave to the City Forum two weeks ago when I set out in terms how the savings that we need to achieve could be made.

I commend the speeches of my hon. Friends, particularly that of my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St Edmunds (Mr Ruffley), who admonished the House about the drive to reduce bureaucracy. I took every word he said seriously. The Government will say more about this and we are driving this issue, as is the leadership of the police service. We have made progress but there is more to do. I shall write to my hon. Friend regarding his additional points about how we should secure the very important reductions in the bureaucratic burden on the police.

I particularly welcomed the speeches of my hon. Friends the Members for Cannock Chase (Mr Burley) and for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake), who has had to leave the Chamber. They focused on how resources are deployed rather than just on the amount of money.

Both sides, including the Opposition, admit that police funding has to be cut, so both sides must recognise that that must mean the overall police work force will fall. What is totally disreputable about the Opposition's attack is that they would cut funding and they know that that would mean a smaller work force, but they still mounted that political attack. The public will see through it. In dismissing the finding in the HMIC report that police availability and visibility is too low, the right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper) shows that she is new to the job and has homework to do. The report says:

"The fact is that general availability, in which we include neighbourhood policing and response, is relatively low."

She should pay attention to the inspectorate's recommendations rather than dismissing them so lightly after just a few weeks in her job.

Yvette Cooper: Will the Minister withdraw his claim that the 11% figure was entirely due to Labour's red tape, as opposed to the fact that some police officers are on night shift or late shift and that some of them are doing work on the drugs force, organised crime and a whole series of other things that are not included in that 11%?

Nick Herbert: The right hon. Lady should start quoting people accurately. I made no such claim. Let me read the second part of what the inspectorate said in the same paragraph:

"Several factors have combined to produce this 'thin blue line' of which shift patterns, risk management, bureaucracy and specialisation are the most significant."

Visibility and availability are too low, they can be improved and she is foolish to dismiss that report.

Yvette Cooper: On that point, will the Minister look again at the answer he gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Gedling (Vernon Coaker), in which he said the figure was because of Labour's red tape, and will he withdraw it?

Nick Herbert: It is, in part, because of Labour's red tape that visibility is too low. The right hon. Lady should understand that and should not dismiss the inspectorate's report. The situation could be improved by dealing with all these issues.

The Opposition are in an untenable position, because they would cut police funding and they know that that would mean a smaller police work force.

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9 February 2011

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