HC Deb 25 November 1999 vol 339 cc182-3W
Mr. Maclean

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what plans he has to implement the recommendations resulting from his Department' s research into the cost of policing in rural areas; and if he will make a statement; [99224]

(2) when he intends to announce details of the police funding formula for 2000–01; [99227]

(3) what was the cost of his Department's research into the sparsity element of the police funding formula; [99226]

(4) what were the main conclusions of the recent research into the cost of policing in rural areas. [99225]

Mr. Charles Clarke

I refer the right hon. Member to the reply given by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to the right hon. Member for East Devon (Sir Peter Emery) on 2 November 1999,Official Report, column 118W.

The needs of police forces with sparsely populated rural areas are already taken into account in the current police funding formula. The research study found that there were additional costs involved in the policing of sparsely populated rural areas and recommended that the police funding formula should be changed to reflect these costs.

The report's findings were considered by a Home Office-chaired Working Group, which included representatives of police forces and police authorities. There was no single view within the Working Group on the conclusions of the research report.

There was general agreement that a sparsity factor had been detected, but less agreement about how to include it appropriately in the police funding formula.

I understand the wishes of rural police forces to see the research findings implemented. Before doing so, the Government will need to be satisfied that the research has provided a final answer to this question which is beyond dispute or challenge.

For 2000–01, we propose to set considerable store by stability in the grant system to help police authorities plan ahead. In the July 1998 White Paper, "Modern Local Government—In Touch With the People", my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions said we would not expect to make fresh changes to the method of calculation of Standard Spending Assessments (SSAs). This applies equally to the method of calculation of police grant, as a common formula is used for distribution of police grant and SSA.

Our present intention is that, subject to consultation and approval by the House, we shall not make any changes to the method of police grant distribution, or revenue support grant distribution, generally for 2000–01. We do not therefore propose to make any substantive changes to the operation of the police funding formula for next year.

We shall be announcing shortly the proposed funding allocations for police authorities in England and Wales for 2000–01.

The cost of the research study was around £72,000.