Earlier today I spoke in Labour’s opposition day debate on police funding. During it, I said:
“It is a pleasure to be called to speak in today’s debate.
It is clear that the UK Statistics Authority, along with police forces across Wales and England and indeed many members of the public, just does not buy the Government’s rhetoric that they are providing an extra £450 million in the forthcoming financial year. That is clearly not the case.
After significant campaigning by my hon. Friend Louise Haigh, the independent watchdog has now identified that, far from providing extra money, the annual police grant is actually a “flat cash settlement” for police forces across the country, and actually amounts to a cut in direct Whitehall grants to local policing. As a result of my hon. Friend’s work, we now know that Home Office funding for local forces will be cut in real terms.
It seems that the Government’s figures are based on an assumption that an extra £270 million will be raised from local taxes—that money comes from local council tax payers and not from the Government. The Government also included £130 million earmarked for national police priorities that will never be available to local policing.
For my local force, South Wales police, an increase in the precept has been essential to help maintain the service, to allow for the protection of vulnerable people and to continue investment in the future of policing in south Wales. Even with the increase in the 2018-19 precept, South Wales police will still have to cut spending by £3.5 million in the coming year, while tackling significant growth in demand and preventing crime through early intervention and prompt, positive action.
There is added frustration in South Wales because despite repeated calls for a review, the Home Office still does not recognise the extra cost of policing Cardiff, the capital city, so South Wales police is further short-changed, whereas additional money is provided to forces policing London and Edinburgh. Although I represent the Merthyr Tydfil part of the South Wales police area, the pressures of policing the capital city clearly put pressure on resources for my constituency. For example, it cost £5.7 million to police the Champions Leaguefinal in Cardiff in June last year. On that occasion, one-off grants were made available from the Home Office, the Welsh Government and the Football Association of Wales. However, South Wales police deployed 1,556 officers and spent £2.1 million of its budget.
The Rhymney side of my constituency is policed under Gwent police. Gwent’s police and crime commissioner, Jeff Cuthbert, has joined other PCCs and Sir David Norgrove, the chairman of the UK Statistics Authority, in calling for clarity over the UK Government’s claims. Gwent Police has already seen its budget cut by 40% in real terms since the start of the UK Government’s austerity agenda, leaving the PCC with little choice other than to turn to council tax payers.
All of this is taking place against the backdrop of 21,000 officers lost since austerity began in 2010; more than 18,000 police staff and more than 6,800 police community support officers have been axed, despite a promise to protect the frontline. On a positive note, one of the few areas where PCSOs have been supported is in Wales, where 500 are directly supported by the Welsh Labour Government, helping to ensure visibility of the policing family and mitigate against Tory cuts. We know that this is also taking place against the backdrop of figures showing that crime has risen nationwide by 14%, the highest annual rise since 1992. Violent crime has risen by 20% and robbery has risen by 29%. In many communities I represent, antisocial behaviour is having a detrimental effect on the quality of life. Public meetings have been called by local communities, and I attended one recently in Abertysswg with the local police, who are doing all that they can with limited resources.
As I said at the start, we know that the “£450 million” is a flat cash settlement for police forces in England and Wales, so we now have the situation where local council tax payers are paying for the Tory cuts imposed from Westminster. I urge the Government to be clear and transparent. I will be fully supporting the motion today, and I urge the Minister to consider it and confirm what action the Government will take to address the concerns.”