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MPs call for changes to the funding system for police force.

Byline: JONATHAN WALKER Political editor jonathan.walker@reachplc.com

AN unfair funding system which means Northumbria Police suffered the biggest cuts in the country must be changed, MPs have insisted.

They warned that public confidence in the police had been "severely dented" as forces cut back on neighbourhood policing in an effort to control costs.

And police were increasingly expected to deal with cases that are not crime-related, such as people suffering a mental health crisis, because of cuts to funding for other services.

The MPs said: "Funding for police forces is down by nearly a fifth since 2010-11 and there are nearly a fifth fewer officers and staff. Inevitably there are consequences and forces are under increasing strain."

The findings were published by the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee. The report's authors included Bridget Phillipson, Labour MP for Houghton and Sunderland South, along with 15 other MPs from different parties and every part of the country.

They highlighted the way that Government cuts in funding have hit Northumbria Police harder than any other force.

It's a result of the Government decision to cut central funding by the same proportion for each police force.

Police forces in wealthier parts of the country tend to raise more of their funding from a precept added to local council tax bills, which means they are not affected so much by cuts in the government grant.

Northumbria Police, however, depends largely on the government grant for funding.

The MPs highlighted the contrast between Northumbria and Surrey Police, which serves a wealthy area on the edge of London.

They said: "In 2018-19, the proportion of local funding varied between forces, from 57% in Surrey to 19% in Northumbria."

They added: "Taking into account changes in both central and local government funding since 2010-11, forces' total funding cuts vary between 11% (Surrey) and 25% (Northumbria)."

The Government's policy of imposing "crude cuts across the board" failed to take into account "the complexities of local circumstances," the MPs said.

They said the Home Office "needs to change the formula so that it takes account of all the demands on police forces, funding from local taxation, forces' efficiency and their financial resilience."

MPs highlighted the effect of cuts on the police nationwide, pointing out that the proportion of crimes resulting in a charge or summons fell from 15% in March 2015 to just 9% in March 2018.

And the police have carried out less proactive work.

For example, since 2010 there have been fewer breathalyser tests, motoring fixed penalty notices, and convictions for drug trafficking and possession.

Ms Phillipson said: "This report makes clear the Government's total failure to ensure our police are properly funded and resourced.

"Years of swingeing cuts have had an acute impact locally, as Northumbria Police has had its budget cut more than any other police force in England.

"This has led to services being cut to the bone, with the loss of 114 police officers in the last year alone.

"Now it seems that ministers have no idea about the impact this has had on the ability of police to do their job, or the pressures they will be under in years to come.

"Such an approach is unacceptable at a time when crime is rising locally.

"Local people have a right to feel safe and be protected from harm. Ministers must do all they can to deliver on this by giving the police the resources they need."

Ministers have no idea about the impact this has had on the ability of police to do their jobBridget Phillipson

CAPTION(S):

A Northumbria Police officer patrols Northumberland Street in Newcastle city centre

Bridget Phillipson, Labour MP for Houghton and Sunderland South
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Nov 9, 2018
Words:618
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