On Thursday in Parliament, there was a brief debate on the important subject of domestic violence. It was begun by Kelvin Hopkins who is the Labour MP for Luton North and the person speaking on behalf of the Government was Sarah Newton who is the Conservative MP for Truro and Falmouth and also the Parliamentary Under Secretary at the Home Office. Kelvin asked the question:
“According to the crime survey for England and Wales, an estimated 2 million adults aged 16 to 59, mostly women, say that they were victims of domestic abuse in the past year. Do not the Government accept that the massive cuts in police resources that they have inflicted will inevitably mean that there will be fewer arrests and fewer prosecutions for domestic violence, leaving more women in danger?”
Sarah Newtons response seems to be based on an inadequate defence of cuts and support of her political comrade rather than any real attempt to reassure Kelvin and those of us who read the transcript of their debates that things are going well. Bear in mind the chart above shows that inflation (both the retail prices index and consumer prices index) have been above the bank of England 2% target for around a year and are now closer to 3% or 4% respectively.
“I thank the hon. Gentleman for the question, but I simply do not accept that at all. Interestingly, funding for Bedfordshire police has risen by 1.8% this year—that is £1.8 million. I hope that he will join me in congratulating his local police and crime commissioner on her personal leadership in tackling domestic violence in Bedfordshire and, in particular, on Project Emerald, which is delivering record numbers of prosecutions and protecting more women than ever before from domestic abuse.”
Of course if the Bedfordshire police funding this year had risen by 3% or even more, then there would be some justification for suggesting that there was no cut to resources this year. However the funding for Bedfordshire Police was the focus of a report by HMIC which was published just over 4 years ago in July 2013. The report states in its opening page “Bedfordshire Police faces a difficult challenge. It has lower than average funding and a complex crime challenge compared to most forces of its size. As a small force it also has limited opportunities for economies of scale…. HMIC has concerns about the force’s ability to maintain its services to the public when faced with further budget reductions in 2015/16” The document goes on to explain how the force is proposing to make savings of 16% of its budget between 2011 and 2015 which is a process begun before Police and Crime Commissioners were elected. The sum involved was £19.4m. Whilst Home Office Ministers may not be up to speed with all of the reports by HMIC, they should at least understand the difference between a real time cut in resources and what a real time increase means. Bedfordshire Police is certainly doing well despite its challenges when it comes to funding based on this report, but this is a matter of coping with cuts. As for the value of the Police and Crime Commissioner, the Bedfordshire PCC Kathryn Holloway may well have worked hard with her Chief Constable to ensure that Domestic Violence is a focus of his work. There is nothing to suggest it is a priority for Kathryn on the home page of her website and as Sarah Newton will know, it is Police Officers who carry out operational Policing, and PCCs who provide Governance. The commendation should surely go to Jon Boutcher as well as the Conservative PCC! Had the Bedfordshire PCC still been a Labour Politician, one wonders if Sarah would have been so complimentary?