Peter Aldous welcomes the additional funding for Suffolk police but highlights the increasing challenges facing the county and calls for a radical shake-up of the county’s police funding settlement to address the disparity with similar areas.
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mike Hill).
In the short term, the settlement enables the police and crime commissioner for Suffolk to deliver his immediate plans for the local police service and in that respect it is to be welcomed. I shall vote for it. The settlement this year, including the council tax increase, provides a cash increase of £9.2 million compared with £3.5 million last year. That will help to meet the additional pension liability, will fund a 2% pay increase and will lead to the recruitment of more frontline police officers. That said, difficult choices have had to be made, including a significant reduction in PCSOs, who provide an important link with local communities.
Suffolk police does a great job, but if it is to continue to do so into the long term its funding settlement needs a radical shake-up and additional Government resources need to be provided. Today, policing in Suffolk presents significant challenges. There have always been additional costs associated with policing of rural areas. Some 42% of Suffolk’s population is rural, which makes Suffolk one of the most rural counties in the country. But today there are additional 21st-century challenges to meet, including county lines, predominantly in Ipswich; an increasingly elderly population, with the number of citizens with dementia predicted to rise to more than 18,000 by 2025; and significant areas of deprivation, not just in towns such as Lowestoft but often hidden in rural areas.
Suffolk police is meeting these increasing challenges, often with one arm tied behind its back. The cost of a police officer in Suffolk is £78 per head compared with a £98 average for England and Wales. The workload of an officer in Suffolk is 150 cases per year, compared with 132 for an officer in neighbouring Norfolk and 122 in the west midlands. Suffolk has one of the lowest costs of policing per person per day—44p compared with a national average of 55p in 2017-18. If Suffolk received the national average funding, our budget would be increased by nearly £30 million. If Suffolk police received the same level of Home Office funding as Norfolk police, with which we collaborate very closely and effectively, our grant would be £3.5 million higher.
Those disparities have been around for a very long time, but if they are not addressed Suffolk police will not be able to continue to meet the increase in demand for its services and to combat the increasingly complex nature of crime. As you well know, Madam Deputy Speaker, Suffolk is a great place to live, but from a crime perspective I am afraid that it is no longer a rural idyll. We have a wide variety of policing challenges to meet, and a new, sustainable, long-term system of funding needs to be put in place through the comprehensive spending review.
Feedback from residents shows that they are increasingly dissatisfied with the status quo, and we need to respond to their concerns. I urge the Minister, who has listened sympathetically over the past year, to work with the Police and Crime Commissioner for Suffolk, other Suffolk Members of Parliament and me to deliver this and to put the funding of policing in Suffolk on a secure long-term footing.
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