This week the House of Commons approved the Police Funding Grant for 2019/20.
Crime in rural areas and recent reports of violent crime, especially using knives in our cities, and significant increases in reported sex offences, are an ever present concern for all of us. Even in places where crime falls, we can always look to improve safety in our communities.
So I was particularly pleased to vote this week for a real terms increase in Police funding, which will ease pressure on budgets after some years of flat settlements. This will take total police funding to up to £14 billion, including that raised from council tax.
West Mercia has received a welcome boost, following a £4.6m cash increase in the current year, with a significant £16.2m cash increase for 2019/20 – to £221.9m. Our local Police and Crime Commissioner, John Campion, announced in December that extra funding will go towards 115 new police officers across the force from April this year, which in addition to 100 new police officers previously announced last year, will take the number of police to the highest level since 2012.
I met the PCC with the Chief Constable and other Shropshire MPs a couple of weeks ago, who explained the rationale for proposals to disentangle the front-line joint force arrangements between West Mercia and Warwickshire, while retaining combined back office functions where appropriate. These seem sensible as the objective is to focus more resources on the West Mercia area.
South Shropshire is already benefitting from this with the Chief Inspector with rural policing responsibilities based at Ludlow and increased Safer Neighbourhood Team police presence on the street, and the new Inspector for South Shropshire based out of Ludlow. I met Inspector Nikki Roberts when she took up her post last year, and have been impressed at her outreach with the local community and her tenacity in securing two sergeants to support her work.
Notwithstanding recent high profile stories about crime – mostly related to Greater London - the Crime Survey for England and Wales shows crime has fallen by over a third since 2010. But crime is not something against which we can afford to be complacent, so this funding increase for West Mercia is welcome.