One of the issues I hear about most frequently on the doorstep, and through my ‘Listening Campaign’ is the desire for more police out on the beat, catching criminals and deterring crime – something I know is important to residents across the north of the county.
As such, in advance of the Government’s announcement before Christmas regarding the provisional police funding settlement for 2019/20, I strongly made the argument to the Chancellor, Home Secretary and Policing Minister – working with our local Police & Crime Commissioner, Stephen Mold – that we needed an increase in police funding in Northamptonshire.
It is the first duty of government to protect the public, and this announcement reflects that commitment and the responsibilities it brings.
I know Ministers understand that police demand is changing and becoming increasingly complex, not least through the increased pressures that cybercrime brings.
I was delighted, therefore, when the Government unveiled this funding settlement, which sees total police funding increasing by up to £970m in 2019/20.
Nationally, this will take total funding up to £14bn.
In Northamptonshire in particular, total funding for local policing is set to increase by up to £9.2m, through increased central grant and greater flexibility for the PCC through the precept, which enables him to take decisions at a very local level, deciding what is best to decrease crime in our area.
The settlement also includes Government funding for additional pension costs – a particular cost pressure.
Our police officers do a difficult job, day in, day out, in pursuit of keeping us safe, and I am extremely conscious of the sacrifices they make in the line of duty; not least because of my own family background, with my parents both having been serving officers in our community.
Quite rightly, extra funding is also being designated for counter-terrorism policing as well as national priorities, including tackling serious and organised crime.
But it is never just about money, and our police need the right tools to tackle the threats they face.
I recently sat on the Offensive Weapons Bill Committee, which has very welcomely passed through the House of Commons, and which will see more robust measures to help tackle the scourge of knives, guns, acids, and gangs, to which we must have a zero-tolerance approach nationwide.
I am clear that this extra funding will be extremely welcome for our local police force, as they look to increase the number of officers out on the beat, catching criminals, and deterring crime, while at the same time bolstering resources to tackle new and emerging forms of crime, such as those we increasingly see online – we are all right behind our local officers in that important work.