Labour accuses ministers of ‘further burdening' local taxpayers on police grant
Rishi Sunak's Government is “further burdening local taxpayers instead of dealing with inflation and properly funding the police”, Labour has claimed.
Shadow Home Office minister Sarah Jones said: “It is unacceptable that the decision to raise the precept limit is presented by the Government as increased flexibility, masking the truth of a council tax hike.”
Her comments came as Home Office minister Chris Philp told the Commons the total police funding settlement “will stand at £17.2 billion” as MPs debated a motion to approve the Police Grant Report (England and Wales) 2023-24.
He told the Commons: “The overall funding for the police next year will go up once again.
“It will go up by £287 million in total compared to the previous year, and because of the way we are allocating the funding between police and crime commissioners (PCCs) who deliver frontline services, versus money spent by the Home Office centrally, the amount of money being received by PCCs will go up by over a half billion, it'll go up by £523 million.
“The total police funding settlement will stand at £17.2 billion.
“As far as the national picture is concerned, by the end of March we will comfortably have more police officers in England and Wales than we have ever had at any point in this country's history, and that is something which this Government is very proud of.
“I would of course want to remind the House and to remind PCCs that before they turn to… local taxpayers to increase their contributions, it is important for PCCs and indeed chief constables to seek efficiencies and maximising productivity before increasing levels of tax.”
Ms Jones told MPs that “grant funding this year is down in real terms”.
She said: “Record numbers are leaving the police force, demoralised and worn out. Charge rates are plummeting, arrest rates have halved, there is a gaping hole in neighbourhood policing, and the police are in crisis in terms of resources, results and public confidence.
“And the Government's response to this in this policing budget? Put up local taxes, put up council tax, push the problem on to local forces, shrug its shoulders and tell us everything is fine, when the whole country will tell you it is not.
“Inflation is soaring at 10.5% but rather than properly deal with this economic crisis, ministers have chosen to heap the burden on to hard-pressed local taxpayers through the precept.
“There has never been a more important time to invest in policing and yet grant funding this year is down in real terms. The Government's offer to local forces is that if they want money, they have to raise it locally. And of course, as has been pointed out, the money is not spread fairly.”
Conservative former minister Andrew Selous (South West Bedfordshire) criticised the “gross unfairness” of the funding formula, saying: “It is high, high time that we sort out this national police funding formula. It simply is not right and it is not fair.”
Labour former minister Kevan Jones said: “(Police and crime commissioners) don't have a choice to put precepts up… Durham is on record as an outstanding force for efficiency.
“So it's the argument that the Government are putting forward that somehow they are raising extra money for policing. Well, what they are actually doing is forcing local council taxpayers in the most deprived areas of this country to pay more.”
Responding, Conservative MP for West Dorset Chris Loder told the Commons: “I think the reality is we are playing years of catch-up where the overall financial settlement for policing has been directed to areas such as his and other members in the House that have benefitted year after year.
“The reality… is the good people of Dorset and Bedfordshire and other counties actually have been bearing the brunt of policing costs to enable the Government to direct its finance capability to help areas such as his.”